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For 1st Time in 150 Years, Wild Turkeys Appear Headed to Chicago

By Justin Breen | November 24, 2015 5:15am | Updated on November 25, 2016 10:26am

Editor's note: Audubon Chicago Region officials sent an updated map of wild turkey sightings near the Chicago city limits. They're still not in city proper yet, but they're close.

Wild turkeys in the region. (eBird)

CHICAGO — Turkeys might be coming to Chicago soon — and not just for Thanksgiving.

In the last two years, wild turkeys have slowly but surely been creeping into Cook County, where they previously hadn't been spotted since 1878. The gobblers were sighted multiple times in 2014 at Chicago Portage Woods in the southwest suburbs and earlier this year near western suburban River Grove on the Des Plaines River.

It's possible they could make their way into Chicago city limits in the coming years, said Thomas Barnes of the Downtown-based Audubon Chicago Region.

"There has been a huge resurgence of turkey populations in the Midwest over the past 25 years, and this area is no different," Barnes said. "Thanks to reintroduction efforts, long-term habitat restoration projects, and the public’s love for this iconic species, turkey populations in Illinois are doing very well, and back in Cook County, if only on the fringe."


The turkeys in Cook County likely migrated via river corridors, Barnes said. He said that, in terms of habitat, turkeys like "deciduous wood lots with lots of openings, and particularly enjoy oak woodlands, which is a native habitat type to the Chicago Wilderness area."

"We do have forest preserves that support [turkeys]," Barnes said.

Due to habitat loss and hunting, wild turkeys were absent in Illinois by the early 1900s. Population restoration efforts began in 1959, and turkeys can now be found in almost all 102 counties, according to the Prairie Research Institute.

By the way, don't plan to try and hunt for local wild turkey. It's illegal to hunt them in Cook County.

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