A Thanksgiving Roadkill Guide: The 3 States With the Highest Turkey Populations
Each Thanksgiving, millions of car drivers set out in the hopes their pumpkin pies in the trunk won’t transform into pumpkin soup on the journey and that their pot of mashed potatoes will stay in the pot and not spray a starchy layer of spuds onto the backseats. As we approach another Thanksgiving, some will turn to the roads to hunt their Thanksgiving table’s edible centerpiece, while others hope to avoid hitting a turkey while driving. Here’s a look at the three states in the U.S. with the highest wild turkey populations, according to A-Z Animals.
A-Z Animals notes there are approximately 6-7 million wild turkeys in the U.S., which can be found in almost every state. Several species of turkeys are native to the U.S. and can mostly be found in “cleared areas” adjacent to or within forests. The website also notes turkeys were once abundant in North America, but deforestation and hunting endangered the birds by the 1970s. In 1972, the National Wild Turkey Federation was formed to protect the remaining population in the U.S. and preserve their habitats. Additionally, the organization supports control measures now that the birds’ populations have rebounded.
In the U.S., the Show Me State ranks as the third most populous state for wild turkeys, estimated at around 350,000. The midwest, particularly areas closer to the mid-South and southeast, is a proverbial hotspot for wild turkeys compared to other parts of the country, including the northeast, Pacific northwest, and southwest. Missouri’s population is estimated to be slightly higher than its neighbors. For instance, populations in Kansas are estimated to be 300,000, while in Kentucky, the figure is between 250,000-300,000.
Continuing the Midwest theme, Wisconsin may be known as the Badger State, but it’s also where hunters (and drivers) can expect to see wild turkeys in abundance. Wisconsin is the No. 2 state for wild turkeys in the U.S., with an estimated population of about 350,000 wild birds roaming the area.
Neighbors, Michigan and Minnesota, have slightly lower populations at 200,000 and 225,000 birds, respectively.
As the adage goes, everything is bigger in Texas, and apparently, that also translates to wild turkey populations. There are about 500,000 wild turkeys in Texas, according to estimates. It may not be the biggest state in the U.S. for land mass, but it’s certainly the largest state with wild turkeys, as they aren’t found in Alaska, according to AZ Animals.
To note, wild turkey populations in Florida and Ohio could be higher, with the website stating that estimated populations in these states could surpass Texas at 700,000 birds. However, the figures also guess these states could have numbers of as little as 100,000 to 150,000.
Which states have the least amount of turkeys?
Drivers who hit the road in several states this Thanksgiving are unlikely to encounter turkey crossings or roadkill along the way.
AZ Animals notes Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game has yet to confirm a wild turkey sighting in the state. The other non-contiguous U.S. state, Hawaii, also lacks native wild turkeys, but some were introduced to Oahu. However, the population of wild turkeys on the Hawaiian islands is unknown.
Delaware, Nevada, and Rhode Island drivers are also unlikely to encounter a wild turkey. Nevada’s population of such birds is estimated to be just 1,200, while populations in Rhode Island (4,000-5,000) and Delaware (6,000) are notably higher but are still relatively limited.