By the 1930s, the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo—the largest game bird native to North America—was almost extinct. Today, however, its numbers are close to 7 million, thanks to efforts to protect habitat, regulate hunting, and reintroduce wild-caught birds in suitable areas. There are five subspecies of wild turkeys populating most of the eastern United States and pockets of the South and West. Unlike its big-breasted, short-lived domestic cousins, the wild turkey maxes out at 20 pounds and has an average life span of almost 2 years.
- A diet of nuts, seeds, insects, and berries makes finding a meal easy—at field and forest edges, throughout the suburbs, and especially in gardens.
- Wild turkeys are territorial and feisty, and will stare down a human; if you find one sampling your garden, use a blast from a garden hose or a leashed dog to defend your turf. But don't touch—hunting out of season carries penalties.
- Use wire-mesh barriers to prevent wild turkeys from grazing or dust bathing in garden beds.
- A wild turkey can run up to 25 miles per hour.