Wild Turkeys in New Hampshire | Return of the Native
In March 1995, with the population well established and spreading on its own, Walski made his final relocation, transporting a flock from Cheshire County to Sanbornton at the western edge of Lake Winnipesaukee. Nearly two decades later, wild turkeys have moved into all corners of the Granite State, from New Castle to Pittsburg, an extraordinary success story for a reintroduced species—and one that has played out in the other New England states, as well. The Eastern wild turkey has reclaimed all of its original range across the Northeast except for far northern Maine, “and we’re working on that,” Walski notes. Now the official state wildlife biologist for New Hampshire Fish & Game’s southwestern region, he’s one of the preeminent wild-turkey experts in the country, still as engaged and active as ever in his 69th year. He estimates the total number of wild turkeys in New Hampshire at 40,000, “probably close to carrying capacity.”
The more he’s learned about turkeys over the years, the less surprised he is at their success. But there was one thing Ted Walski didn’t see coming. He used to believe that access to open farmland would be the key to the turkeys’ survival in the state. Back in 1975, New Hampshire had 618 operating dairy farms; 35 years later, as the wild-turkey population continued to explode, that number was down to 130, and in Walpole today, only a handful of dairy farms are still in business. Yet the turkeys continue to make it through the hard winters.
“The corn in the cow manure,” Walski quips, “turned out to be not nearly as important as backyard birdfeeders.”