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Community News

Ohio boasts vibrant wild turkey population

11/22/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

A group of wild turkeys is shown above in a Summit County park. Summit County doesn’t have a huge population of the birds, but it’s not uncommon to find them in the area, Metro Parks officials said.
Photo: Joe Prekop/courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
A lone wild turkey was captured by a trail camera in a Metro Parks, Serving Summit County conservation area.
Photo courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
SUMMIT COUNTY — State and local wildlife officials said the wild turkeys found in the area are a lot different than the birds that are part of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

This turkey was taking a look-see in Sand Run Metro Park in West Akron.
Photo: Tim Hite/courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
Ohio is home to a vibrant population of the native birds, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which reports that 230,000 wild turkeys were estimated to be in the state in 2011.

That’s a big difference from a century ago. The ODNR reports that wild turkeys once inhabited forested areas of the entire state, providing food and sport for Native Americans and early Ohio settlers. As the settler population grew and forests were converted to farms, the wild turkey’s population dwindled to the point that no birds remained in the state by 1904.

The ODNR’s Division of Wildlife spent many years working to re-establish the birds in Ohio, and efforts began to show progress in the 1950s and 1960s. Today all 88 Ohio counties have reports of wild turkeys, ODNR reports.

A Wildlife Population Status Report for 2011 from the ODNR on wild turkeys shows that the highest densities of turkeys are in the heavily forested areas of the eastern half of the state. However, Summit and Medina counties are deemed areas of low turkey populations.

Still, wild turkeys aren’t an unusual site in the Akron area. Metro Parks, Serving Summit County officials said wild turkey females, or hens, usually nest on the ground in places like Cascade Valley Metro Park in Northwest Akron, Hampton Hills Metro Park in Merriman Valley, O’Neil Woods Metro Park in Bath and Sand Run Metro Park in West Akron. They’ve also been spotted nesting on the ledges at Liberty Park in Twinsburg.

Breeding starts in early spring, and the young, called poults, will stay with their mother until fall or the following spring.

The wild turkey is the largest game bird in North America, ranging from 3 to 4 feet tall and weighing up to 24 pounds, according to park officials. In comparison, they added that farm-raised turkeys, which are typically the ones on Thanksgiving tables, are twice the size of wild turkeys and usually cannot fly because of their size.

Wild turkeys can reach flight speeds of up to 50 mph, and the noisy birds make more than just “gobble” sounds — they can bark, peep, yelp and even croak like a frog, according to Metro Parks officials.

Wild turkeys are allowed to be hunted in Ohio during the fall and spring. The fall season ends Nov. 25, according to ODNR.

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