This wild turkey is glad to be strutting his stuff while you're eating domestically raised turkey today. But even if you're eating a wild bird he's grateful that people like to hunt turkeys.
Grateful?? It's a complicated story.
When Europeans came to America, hunting was unregulated and turkeys were very popular food. By the late 1800s, hunting and deforestation had taken its toll. Only a few thousand turkeys remained in all of Pennsylvania.
At that point the newly formed PA Game Commission began studying the turkey population and regulating the hunting season. There were so few turkeys that hunting was banned for a few years. The Game Commission even stocked wild turkeys from Mexico. Then in 1929 they acquired land and began to raise turkeys for release into the wild.
Propagation programs, habitat restoration and hunting regulations turned the tide. Today Pennsylvania's wild turkey population is thriving. They are easy to find just about everywhere, even in Pittsburgh's big city parks: Frick, Schenley, Riverview and Highland. My favorite flock of turkeys used to hang out at the "French fry sculpture" on Bigelow Boulevard.
So on Thanksgiving Day, Tom Turkey is grateful to the PA Game Commission for making his comeback possible. He is also thankful that Americans prefer to eat domestic turkeys.
(PGC photo of a male Wild Turkey in full display, courtesy of the PA Game Commission's Photo Gallery)