Wild turkeys, once common across New England, are back after disappearing from the region in the 19th century and are now regularly spotted in rural fields, suburban neighborhoods, and even the airspace above interstate highways. the AP reports. The revival is considered one of the major wildlife restoration success stories, even making it into wildlife management textbooks, says Mark Scott, director of wildlife for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. The revival of the birds in Vermont grew from the release of turkeys in Rutland County during the winters of 1969-70 and 1970-71. A total of 31 were released during that time. The state now has a population estimated at 45,000 to 50,000 birds, from one end of the state to the other.
Vermont has also helped other states in the region and beyond restore or build their populations, sending turkeys to places including Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Canada and Germany. "I think people like to see turkeys whether they hunt them or not," says Scott, whose agency oversees Vermont's spring and fall turkey hunting seasons. The turkey revival is not just a New England phenomenon. Wild turkeys are now found in all US states except Alaska, says Pete Muller, public relations manager for the National Wild Turkey Federation, which is trying to maintain and expand turkey habitats across the country. "When you think about this particular time of year, Thanksgiving, most people will think of turkeys," says Muller, who estimates the national turkey population is around 6 million.