Native Vermonters can be very tough on transplants. But when it comes to the native turkeys of the Green Mountain State, you have to look to the state of New York.
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Wild turkeys exist throughout Vermont today, but that was not always the case. Wild turkeys disappeared from Vermont in the mid-to-late 1800s due to habitat destruction when land was cleared for farming, and only 25 percent of the state was covered by forest.
According to the New England Historical Society, by the 1920s, wild turkeys had vanished from 20 of the 39 states in which they ranged. By the late 1930s, as few as 30,000 wild turkeys remained in the United States.
The wild turkey began to make its comeback during the Great Depression. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 put a tax on sporting arms and ammunition, and it paid to bring back wildlife. In 1940 the federal Wildlife Restoration program began to return the wild turkey back to its old habitat. The failure of many farms during the Depression helped, because the forests that reclaimed them made good habitats for reintroduced wild turkeys.
In Vermont, where wildlife officials brought 31 wild turkeys from upstate New York during the winters of 1969-70 and 1970-71. They released the birds in Rutland County, and within a year Vermont had 150 wild turkeys. Today, the state has about 50,000 of them.
According to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, this is just one of many wildlife restoration success stories we can be thankful for in 2022. Funding for Vermont’s wild turkey restoration was derived from the sale of hunting licenses and a federal tax on hunting equipment.
Now if they would just cross the road a little more quickly.