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Wild Turkeys Find New Homes for Thanksgiving

Twenty-one wild turkeys were released near St. Louis and Philadelphia at symbolic and educational Thanksgiving wild turkey releases.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the National Wild Turkey Federation organized the Philadelphia event, while the St. Louis event was hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the NWTF, with the help of partners Great Rivers Habitat Alliance and Wonders of Wildlife Museum.

The two releases celebrated the success of the nation's wild turkey restoration efforts. In the 1930s, wild turkey numbers were at an all-time low of 30,000 throughout North America. Thanks to the restoration efforts of state wildlife agencies, the wild turkey population was on the rebound when the NWTF was founded in 1973.

Initial restoration efforts consisted of releasing masses of pen-raised wild turkeys. Early restoration efforts quickly proved fruitless, however, because pen-raised birds did not have the necessary skills to survive in the wild. Thanks to the development of the cannon net, and later the rocket net, wildlife professionals began catching wild birds and moving them into suitable areas to start new populations.

Because of the tireless efforts of state and provincial agencies, the NWTF and thousands of volunteers have helped transfer more than 186,000 wild turkeys to restore turkey populations across the country.

"The NWTF was founded in 1973, and at that time, there were only an estimated 1.3 million wild turkeys in the country," said NWTF CEO, Rob Keck. "Thanks to the work of our nation's sportsmen, there are now nearly 7 million wild turkeys."

School groups and the general public attended and learned about the comeback of the wild turkey. Each event demonstrated efforts made by hunters and state wildlife professionals on behalf of wild turkey restoration and wildlife conservation.

"We hope the releases taught the children more about the wild turkey and the importance of conserving our wildlife resources, and passing along our hunting traditions," said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF senior vice president for conservation programs.

The St. Louis area release was held at the Weldon Springs Conservation Area in Weldon Springs, Mo. The Pennsylvania Game Land 196 near Sellersville, Pa. was the event site for the Pennsylvania turkey release.

For more information about the wild turkey release or the NWTF, contact Brian Dowler or Amy Forrest at (803) 637-3106.

About the NWTF: In 1973, when the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded, there were an estimated 1.3 million wild turkeys and 1.5 million turkey hunters. Thanks to the work of wildlife agencies and the NWTF’s many volunteers and partners, today there are nearly 7 million wild turkeys and nearly 3 million turkey hunters. Since 1985, the NWTF and its cooperators have spent more than $202 million upholding hunting traditions and conserving more than 9 million acres of wildlife habitat.

The NWTF is a nonprofit organization with more than 500,000 members in 50 states and 16 foreign countries. It supports scientific wildlife management on public, private and corporate lands as well as wild turkey hunting as a traditional North American sport.

For more information on the National Wild Turkey Federation, call (803) 637-3106, check out our Web site at or e-mail questions to

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