After being extinct in New Jersey for over 100 years, wild turkeys have made a strong comeback in the Garden State in the last three to four decades.

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Overhunting and development of their wooded homes completely chased wild turkeys out of New Jersey by the mid-1800s.

"Suburban sprawl and other factors eliminate habitat, and that's bound to happen in a place like New Jersey," said Bob Eriksen, regional wildlife biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

But starting in the late 1970s, wild turkeys were reintroduced into the state in 42 locations. The effort began back then with the importation of 22 birds.

"It was just an effort to restore a species that was native to New Jersey, that had a place in New Jersey and deserved to be brought back," said Eriksen, adding that the state's modern wild turkey population will likely remain stable at about 20,000 to 25,000 birds.

Eriksen said it is harder to keep wild turkeys living in more urbanized ares of New Jersey, such as Hudson County, but sometimes they still show up there. Depending on their location, the turkeys have also been called a nuisance. They caused a lot of problems in the Burlington County town of Hainesport a few years ago, when a flock of the birds became very aggressive.

Nevertheless, the turkeys can be seen in at least 20 of the state's 21 counties.

"I think that they are here to stay, which is a good thing," Eriksen said.

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