Wild Turkey Population by State: How Many Are in the U.S.?

Written by Emily Wolfel
Updated: May 8, 2023
© iStock.com/Jens_Lambert_Photography
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Key Points:

  • With five different species native to the U.S., turkeys are a popular game bird.
  • Wild turkeys are omnivores that eat a variety of foods from grasses to nuts to small reptiles.
  • Almost all the states have at least some turkey populations, with the only main exception being Alaska.

Wild turkeys are one of the most popular game birds in the country. Many hunters look forward to hunting these large, elusive birds every year. How many wild turkeys are there in the United States? We did the research to bring you the facts.

turkey in the wild
The wild turkey is a large ground bird native to the U.S and a member of the family that includes grouse.

©Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

Meet the Wild Turkey

There are five species of turkey native to the U.S.:

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  • Eastern turkey
  • Osceola turkey
  • Merriam’s turkey
  • Rio Grande turkey
  • Gould’s turkey
  • Ocellated turkey.

Many people enjoy eating domestic turkeys. Those who hunt wild turkeys say they taste better than their farm-raised counterparts. Their intelligence makes them difficult to hunt, which is another reason some people enjoy the challenge of hunting them.

The above map shows the population of wild turkeys in the U.S. by state.

Where Do Wild Turkeys Live?

Wild turkeys are mostly found in open forests that have cleared areas. In the south, they are found among pines, magnolias, beeches, live oaks, pecans, elms, cottonwoods, or tupelos. In other parts of the country, you can find them among the mountain laurels, huckleberries, greenbriers, and willows. Turkeys are excellent at camouflaging themselves in leafy trees.

RELATED: How long do turkeys live?

What Do Wild Turkeys Eat?

They are omnivores who eat a large variety of things. Here are some things wild turkeys enjoy:

  • Fresh plant matter, including buds, roots, and bulbs
  • Tender grasses
  • Leaves and shoots
  • Nuts, including acorns, beechnuts, and hickories
  • Small fruits like crabapples and berries
  • Insects
  • Worms and slugs
  • Lizards and other small reptiles.

What Is Their Population in the United States?

There are 6 million to 7 million wild turkeys, and they live in every state except Alaska.

Like the bald eagle and the wolf, the wild turkey is an animal that came back from the brink of extinction.

Wild turkeys are a major conservation success story. Turkeys were once abundant in North America. The birds were so widespread and populous that Benjamin Franklin proposed naming the wild turkey the national animal of the United States. Hunting and deforestation almost caused the birds to go extinct by the early part of the 20th century. By the 1970s, wild turkeys were on the point of disappearing entirely from the North American landscape.

wild turkey
When awake, turkeys spend most of their time looking for food.

©Sean R. Stubben/Shutterstock.com

In 1972, a group of hunters and wildlife conservationists formed the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). The federation’s goal was to preserve habitat, conserve remaining populations of turkeys, and reintroduce breeding turkeys to their former territories.

The NWTF also employs hunting as a means of controlling turkey populations. Like any species, turkeys can be damaging if they outgrow the local ecosystem’s ability to support them. Controlled hunting and habitat preservation allowed bird populations to increase.

Wild Turkey Population by State

Alabama: 300,000

Alaska: 0

There are no wild turkeys in Alaska. People occasionally claim to see them there, but the state Department of Fish and Game has not confirmed any sightings of the birds.

Arizona: 25,000

Arkansas: 100,000

California: 240,000

Colorado: 30,000 to 35,000

Connecticut: 34,000 to 40,000

Delaware: 6,000

Florida: 100,000 to 700,000

Georgia: 250,000 to 300,000

Hawaii: Unknown

Wild turkeys are not native to Hawaii, but a small number of turkeys were introduced to Oahu several years ago. The introduced birds are healthy, but exact numbers are not known.

Idaho: 30,000

Illinois: 150,000

Indiana: 120,000

Iowa: 120,000

Kansas: 300,000

Kentucky: 250,000 to 300,000

Louisiana: 40,000

Maine: 70,000

Maryland: 40,000

Massachusetts: 30,000 to 35,000

Michigan: 200,000

Minnesota: 225,000

Mississippi: 40,000

Missouri: 350,000

Montana: 120,000

Nebraska: 145,000

Nevada: 1,200

New Hampshire: 50,000

New Jersey: 20,000 to 23,000

New Mexico: 15,000 to 20,000

New York: 160,000

North Carolina: 270,000

North Dakota: 22,000

Ohio: 700,000 to 150,000

Oklahoma: 94,000

Oregon: 40,000

Pennsylvania: 170,000

Rhode Island: 4,000 to 5,000

South Carolina: 100,000

South Dakota: 50,000

Tennessee: 270,000

Texas: 500,000

Utah: 25,000 to 35,000

Vermont: 45,000

Virginia: 170,000 to 190,000

Washington: 28,000

West Virginia: 100,350

Wisconsin: 350,000

Wyoming: 15,000

Up Next…

Want to keep reading? Try one of these great resources next!

Do Turkeys Make Good Pets? – Thinking about getting a pet turkey? Read this first!

Male vs. Female Turkeys: Spotting the Difference – Learn all about the differences between male and female turkeys.

10 Incredible Turkey Facts – Check out these ten amazing facts about turkeys. They might surprise you!

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The Featured Image

turkey in the wild
Turkeys spend all of their awake time hunting for food.
© iStock.com/Jens_Lambert_Photography

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About the Author

Emily is an editor and content marketing specialist of five years. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania where you can regularly encounter anything from elk to black bears to river otters. Over the years, she raised livestock animals, small animals, dogs, cats, and birds, which is where she learned most of what she knows about various animals and what allowed her to work as a dog groomer and manager of a specialty pet store. She now has three rescue cats and two high-needs Pomeranian mixes to take up her love and attention.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where can you see wild turkeys?

If you’re not interested in hunting them but want to see wild turkeys live, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends these wildlife refuges that have become favorite turkey hangouts.

 

What does wild turkey meat taste like?

Most people say it tastes like the dark meat of domestic turkeys. A wild turkey’s breast is much smaller than a domestic turkey’s, so you get a more intense flavor and some gaminess. The methods of cooking are also slightly different. Since it is drier than a domestic turkey, it shouldn’t be roasted for hours like a domestic turkey.

Are wild turkeys aggressive?

They can be. Wild turkeys occasionally enter human habitations, especially near farms and orchards. If they meet with humans or other intruders during the breeding season, they sometimes react by charging and chasing the human. They will rarely take on an adult, but they might chase children or small pets. They won’t cause serious damage, however, and will run away if they see dogs or other large animals.

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