Where Did All These Big Island Wild Turkeys Come From?
The Big Island’s Wild Turkeys – if you’ve driven around the island you’ve probably seen them. If you take a drive upcountry on Saddle Road to Waiki’i Ranch, youâ€™ll see several
flocks of turkeys sharing pastures with herds of cattle. With Thanksgiving almost here, it’s natural to think of turkeys… which got me to wondering – just where did all these Big Island turkeys come from?
Some internet research showed that the history of importing turkeys to the Big Island as game birds may have started as early as 1788. But, most feral turkeys that existed until the 1940’s were reputedly descendants of free ranging domestic stock imported from Chile in 1815.
So where do all our modern day turkeys come from? Well, the book â€The Wild Turkey” by James G. Dickson of the United States Forest Service traces it all back to 1961 when some wild Rio Grande turkeys were released on the Big Island at Puu Waawaa Ranch. From 1961 to 1963 there were a total of about 400 wild Texas turkeys released on all six major Hawaiian Islands.
These birds prefer the dry, higher elevations and have thrived on the Big Island, Molokai and Lanai but not fared so well on Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
It has been estimated that as many as 16,000 turkeys are now on the islands from those original 400.
And now you know where all those turkeys came from!