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Twenty-five Years After Re-introduction, Wild Turkeys Now Common Sight In TN


If you happen to see a wild turkey waddling down the road near your East Tennessee home, you have Billy Minser to thank. 

By the 1950's, turkeys had all but disappeared from the region.  In 1979, Minser and friend Jack Murray were among a small group of wildlife conservationists who released 18 wild turkeys from Missouri into the woods at the University of Tennessee Arboretum in Oak Ridge. 

Reflecting back on the moment they let the turkeys go, Minser says, “That was a great feeling of elation that this might be the start of bringing back a species that’s been gone for nearly a hundred years.”

Minser’s elation wasn’t misplaced.  Their numbers have grown exponentially to the point where wild turkeys are a common site in Oak Ridge and throughout East Tennessee.   

Minser says he’s proud of his contribution to the turkey’s revival, an emotion he feels whenever he says a flock of the giant birds.  “It’s a great sense of satisfaction,” he says.   

See the Oak Ridge Reservation Wildlife Management Plan

See the TWRA's most recent turkey report