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Wild Turkey Population History FAQs

A. Were turkeys ever extirpated from Pennsylvania? 

No. By the 1930s, wild turkey populations were extirpated or reduced to dangerously low levels except in the more remote and rugged portions of their original range. Up to 10% of the 30,000 turkeys remaining nationwide survived in the rugged Ridge and Valley Province of central Pennsylvania. These locales were not suitable for farming or lumbering, and were difficult for hunters to access.

B. What caused the near extinction of wild turkeys? 

The two major factors were excessive sustenance and market hunting by early settlers and destruction of forests by logging and agricultural development. 

C. Have turkeys always lived throughout all of Pennsylvania? 

Not likely. When Pennsylvania was first settled, eastern wild turkeys were abundant, with the exception of the Allegheny Plateau Region in the northcentral part of the state. Prolonged deep snow cover and understory shading from vast expanses of forests containing virgin white pine and eastern hemlock probably combined to create an unsuitable environment for wild turkeys in this region.

D. Turkey Game Farms

  1. When did the Pennsylvania Game Commission begin the turkey game farms? 1915. 

  2. How many game farm turkeys did the Pennsylvania Game Commission release? The Pennsylvania Game Commission raised and released more than 200,000 game farm turkeys between 1930 and 1980. In 1979, the Commission committed to accelerated transfers of wild-trapped turkeys into the state's remaining suitable but unoccupied turkey habitats. 

  3. When were the turkey game farms closed in Pennsylvania? 1980. 

  4. Why did the Pennsylvania Game Commission close the turkey game farms? Fifty years of game-farm raised turkeys introductions had failed, whereas only 15 years of releases of wild-trapped turkeys led to successful establishment of self-sustaining wild turkey populations across Pennsylvania. 

E. Trap and Transfer

  1. How many wild turkeys have been trapped and transferred within Pennsylvania? Nearly 2,800 turkeys have been trapped and transferred to 39 counties within Pennsylvania from 1960 - 2003. 

  2. How many wild turkeys have been transferred to other states? Almost 900 turkeys have been transferred to 9 states as of Yr. 2007.