Utahns who have never seen a wild turkey and hunters who prefer getting their own bird for Thanksgiving can be grateful to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the state Wildlife Resources Division says.
Wildlife biologists this week have released 179 turkeys throughout the state, trying to build up Utah's native population, division spokesman Steve Phillips said Thursday."These are Rio Grande turkeys," said Phillips. "They are slightly different from the Merriam turkeys found in Utah. They prefer the lower elevations and river bottoms," while the Merriam turkeys tend to remain in brushy areas in the lower mountains in southern and western Utah.
The state received 94 Rio Grande turkeys from wildlife officials in Texas, 56 from Kansas and 29 from Oklahoma, he said.
"We're hoping some of them will hybridize with the Merriams, which haven't done real well in Utah, and move into areas in between the mountains and the lower canyons," Phillips said.
Most of the transplanted turkeys were released in rural southern Utah, he said, but 16 of the birds were set free in the Echo Canyon area about 30 miles northeast of Salt Lake City, and another 29 near Vernal, 140 miles east of Salt Lake.
"The Echo and Vernal releases are the first this far north in Utah," he said. "We're trying to spread the wild gobblers throughout the state."