According to Wikipedia (German Wikipedia - Truthuhn), there were several attempts to domicile turkeys in Europe since 1732. All of them were not successful at all. Still they kept on trying until 1993!

In Mitteleuropa gelangen über mehrere Jahrzehnte Ansiedlungen, allerdings mussten die Populationen immer durch Hilfsmaßnahmen unterstützt werden. In Niederösterreich gab es zwischen 1880 und 1940 größere Brutpopulationen, die mehrere hundert Individuen umfassten, die jedoch nach der Einstellung der Hege im Zweiten Weltkrieg rasch zusammenbrachen. Eine Neuansiedlung scheiterte sowie auch die elf Versuche, mit denen zwischen 1953 und 1993 in Deutschland Truthühner angesiedelt werden sollten. Eine Ansiedelung im Oberrheingebiet erreichte einen Höchstbestand von 300 Individuen, 1997 gab es jedoch nur 12 Individuen. Im Kreis Wesel gab es in den 1960er Jahren 200 bis 250 Individuen, 1977 lebten jedoch nur noch ein Männchen und vier oder fünf Weibchen. Den größten freilebenden mitteleuropäischen Bestand gibt es in Tschechien, wo es 1988 noch 530 Individuen gab.

Die früheste Erwähnung von ausgesiedelten Truthuhn-Beständen in Deutschland beschreibt den Zeitraum von 1698 bis 1732. Es ist allerdings nicht erwiesen, ob es sich dabei um Wildtruthühner oder um domestizierte Tiere handelte.

From German Wikipedia - Truthuhn

Google translate (cause I'm lazy):

In Central Europe several settlements have been established, but the populations have always had to be supported by aid measures. In Lower Austria there were larger breeding populations between 1880 and 1940, which included several hundred individuals, but which collapsed rapidly after the attitude of the Hege in the Second World War. A new resettlement failed as well as the eleven attempts, with which between 1953 and 1993 in Germany should be moved turkeys. A settlement in the Upper Rhine region reached a peak of 300 individuals, but in 1997 there were only 12 individuals. In Wesel, there were between 200 and 250 individuals in the 1960s, but in 1977 only one male and four or five females lived. The largest free-living Central European plant is found in the Czech Republic, where there were still 530 individuals in 1988.

The earliest mention of extinct turkeys in Germany describes the period from 1698 to 1732. It is, however, not established whether these were turkeys or domesticated animals.

Why did they want this so bad?

  • I wouldn't say it was unsuccessful, it made Bernard Matthews a very rich man. – Separatrix Oct 3 '17 at 7:58
  • @Separatrix Talking about wildlife here. :) Domesticated ones are of course common in Europe too. – OddDeer Oct 3 '17 at 8:03
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    They are not native to most of the US either, but people, and especially hunters, tend to like them, so they were spread. Humans tend to believe they are better biological engineers than evolution, so we interfere. From experience, the people who are most enthused when some move into a neighborhood are also the ones who are most upset when they find out what a flock of turkeys do to their lawns, roses and gardens. – dlb Oct 3 '17 at 19:27
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    Having raised turkeys myself, I know that they are a pain in the rear to raise. Poults sometimes starve themselves to death, if they do not have a baby chick to show them how to eat. You now know why we use the phrase "to be dumb as a turkey" comes from. You also have to moderate their food intake because they eat so much as a young bird that they will become too heavy for their own legs. In all, an answer to your question is quite complicated (for domesticated or wild turkeys). – Ken Graham Oct 5 '17 at 22:44

Asking why people wanted to do something in the past is opinion-based, so this question will likely be closed.

I'm only guessing, but most likely the desire to establish wild populations of turkeys was to be able to hunt them. I'm not a hunter, but here in New England where wild turkeys are common, I know that they are also a favorite of hunters.

Especially back in 1732, and unfortunately even as recently as 1993, people rarely stopped to think about the impact of a non-native animal on a existing ecosystem. Significant numbers of wild turkeys would certainly have had some impact on the balance of European ecosystems. Some native species would benefit, and some would decline. Whether the overall effect would be "desirable" in human terms would be a matter of opinion, and what attributes of the ecosystem a particular person valued above others.

History tells us that almost certainly there would have been unforseen negative consequences. You should consider yourselves fortunate that attempts to introduce these foreign animals into the wild failed.

A much more interesting question would have been why the introduction efforts failed. I don't even know enough to guess at the answer to that, but the answer could be illuminating.

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