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November 21. 2012 11:49PM

New Hampshire has 40,000 turkeys

Change is the only constant for the state's turkey population.

Once abundant, the last wild turkey was spotted in Weare in 1854. Now there are an estimated 40,000 birds in the state, thanks to a restoration effort that began with 25 birds in Walpole in 1975.

Ted Walski, New Hampshire Fish and Game's turkey biologist, has been at the job since 1972. He said loss of habitat played a major role in the turkey's decline, as well as unregulated hunting.

The bird's revival began when the state traded a number of fisher cats for 25 turkeys from the Allegheny Mountains of New York and Pennsylvania.

One hunter who is happy the turkeys made a comeback is Steve Carpenter of Plymouth. He will have a domesticated bird on the table today, but does enjoy eating wild turkey breast.

Wild birds are about the same size as on most tables today - about 18 pounds from the field.

"They're tough," Carpenter said of both eating and catching New Hampshire's wild gobblers. "I won't eat the legs," he said.

"I first tried baking them. That wasn't good. Now I deep-fry and season with bread crumbs. Some guys like to soak them in buttermilk overnight," rather than a brine, he said.

At first, Carpenter plucked the birds, but found it is too much work.

"Never again," he shook his head.

Carpenter now skins the breasts and just cooks and eats the breast meat, which he said is darker and not as tender as a domestic bird.

Wild turkeys now roam in gangs of 20 or so in neighborhoods from New Castle to Pittsburg, roosting on swing sets, grazing at feeders, often stopping traffic as they scoot across roadways.

When are there too many turkeys, Walksi was asked.

"I don't have a concern for overpopulation," he said.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.


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