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Officials stop quail releases

Associated Press
Nov. 7, 2004 12:00 AM

TUCSON - Biologists have released more than 25,000 masked bobwhite quail in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge since 1985, when the federal government bought a ranch for nearly $9 million and booted cows from the grasslands southwest of Tucson.

But within a year of being set free, more than 90 percent of the endangered birds were dead, most of them picked off by hawks. Today, 100 to 200 survive in the wild.

Now, officials have decided to halt releases of the quail so they can figure out what's going wrong.

"We're not giving up the fight for the masked bobwhite," manager Mitch Ellis said. "We'll keep doing what we can for the habitat, and the birds will come along at some point."

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