New to Idaho: Turkeys and More

Turkeys are only one of many non-native species the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has introduced to Idaho in the past 75 years. Turkeys were introduced in 1961. Some, like turkeys, have taken hold and provided new hunting and viewing opportunities. Other introductions, like brook trout, have provided opportunity, but at a cost to Idaho’s native species, particularly bull trout.

Eager to have certain species to hunt and fish, the public has also introduced non-native species on their own. Because many of these introductions have been fish, this activity is dubbed “bucket biology.” Over the years these introductions have grown to include carp, brook trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bobwhite quail, ring-neck pheasants and most recently, wild boar.

Game species Fish and Game has introduced to Idaho include chukar, Japanese green pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, Gambel’s quail, California quail and Merriam’s, Rio Grande and eastern turkeys, walleye, crappie, bluegill, tiger muskie and sunapee trout.

Non-native species can have unforeseen consequences for natural habitat, native species and popular sport fisheries. Idaho Fish and Game experienced this first hand with the well-intentioned introduction of mysis shrimp into lakes containing kokanee salmon, such as the Priest Lakes and Lake Pend Oreille. These introductions shifted the lakes’ ecosystem to favor other introduced species, such as lake and rainbow trout, to the detriment of native bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout and the ever popular kokanee salmon.

As the science of managing fish and wildlife has evolved, the practice of introducing new species to Idaho, without extensive analysis, is largely seen as a naïve and outdated practice.