Here’s something to ponder as Thanksgiving approaches: Wild turkeys are found across Idaho, and there’s even an open hunting season on them right now up in the North Idaho Panhandle. But they’re not native to the state. Turkeys actually were introduced by Idaho Fish & Game in 1961, a move that once was a common part of wildlife management in the state. The Fish & Game photo above shows the first turkey release in '61.
“Turkeys have adapted so well in northern Idaho, they have become a nuisance in some locations,” Idaho Fish & Game reports. “Yet few turkeys are found in the Salmon Region, because little habitat is suitable there. Wild turkey populations in Idaho are largely found in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions and parts of the Southeast Region.”
Other species Fish & Game has introduced over its 75-year history include chukar, Gambel’s quail, California quail, walleye, crappie, bluegill and tiger muskie. But there have been some that haven’t gone so well, too, including the introduction of mysis shrimp in North Idaho lakes, which shifted the lakes’ ecosystem in ways that hurt native bull trout and kokanee; and the introduction long ago of brook trout, which then competed with native fish species.
Reports Fish & Game, “As the science of managing fish and wildlife has evolved, the practice of introducing new species to Idaho, without extensive analysis, is largely seen as a naïve and outdated practice.” But the turkeys are still here.