Turkeys spreading into Chicago suburbs: The wonder and surprise of it

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Turkeys in Glenwood.
Credit: Jeff Beyer/For the Sun-Times

The now-gone Santa Fe Speedway held a varied place in Chicago sporting history. That even extends to the outdoors.

For whatever reason, that piece of southwestern Cook County produced the most reports of turkeys on the edge of the suburbs when I started doing the outdoors for the Sun-Times 20 years ago.

When I did my due diligence and checked with birders and biologists, the consensus back then was they were likely some form of feral domesticated turkeys.

Turkey times have changed. Dramatically.

Wild turkeys now are found in all 102 Illinois counties. Spring turkey hunting will be open in 100 counties in 2018, emailedLuke Garver, Illinois’ wild-turkey project manager. Cook and DuPage are the only counties without spring turkey hunting. But they’re certainly not without wild turkeys.

Wild turkeys were extirpated from Illinois by the early 1900s. Re-establishment began in 1959 — far more successfully than expected — as turkeys proved adept at adapting to Illinois’ farmland and wood lots. And to suburban/urban areas.

A wild turkey in Wheaton.<br>Credit: Tom O’Malley/For the Sun-Times

A wild turkey in Wheaton.
Credit: Tom O’Malley/For the Sun-Times

Last week,Tom O’Malleymessaged photos and videos of turkeys roaming a subdivision in Wheaton. The next day,Jeff Beyeremailed photos and a note from Glenwood, just south of Glenwood-Lansing Road.

‘‘Thought you might like to see how the wild-turkey flock is doing in the south suburbs,’’ he emailed. ‘‘I was out for a bike rideon Wednesdayand came across these guys. As I rolled up on them, they went off into the brush. I stopped, and they came right back out. There were actually eight of them.

‘‘I have seen a lot of deer, snakes, coyotes and foxes along the bike path, but never any turkeys.’’

I’m fairly certain those are wild turkeys, probably descended from an original release to the south. In November 2002, at a farm northeast of Beecher near the Indiana line, there was a formal release of wild turkeys. They established and spread out.

I suspect that release might be the source of a taleBrian Athernof Darien sent from Willowbrook. He said a Willowbrook officer and a Burr Ridge officer had a gobbler pushed into a subdivision.

‘‘The way they cut it off, I wasn’t sure if they were negotiating with it or figuring out what to write the bird up for,’’ he emailed. ‘‘Both cops were looking at each other to make the first move. Coyotes and deer, I expect. But the gobblers are new.’’

Chicago outdoors speeds wilder.

Stray cast

The possibility of Nibiru’s hellfire feels more plausible after eight hours of muskie fishing. The Bears accomplish the same in only three hours.

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.

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