On this day when turkeys are at the center of public attention, it is important to learn and remember the history of our own native turkey in the Sky Island region.
There are two sub-species of turkeys native to Arizona: the smaller Merriam’s turkey found in the pine forests of Northern Arizona and the Gould’s turkey, which is larger in size and found in the Sky Islands. Gould’s turkeys were once extirpated from southern Arizona due to over hunting by western settlers. They were gone from Arizona by the 1920s.
Gould’s turkeys were reintroduced into the Sky Island mountain ranges starting in 2003. This was made possible through a collaboration between the United States and Mexico.
Relocated birds were from a source flock in Sonora, Mexico. Those birds were placed in several mountains in the region, including the Huachucas, Pinaleños, and Santa Catalina Mountains.
The reintroduction of the Gould’s turkey is now considered a success story. The introduced turkeys gained a foothold in their historic habitats and thrived. The Gould’s turkeys are now a common and welcome sight on our wildlife cameras, and trips into the field.
So whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving, lets be thankful for the turkey.