posted on December 06, 2004 00:00
Quail project facing two serious obstacles
By Bob Frye
TRIBUNE-REVIEW OUTDOORS EDITOR
Monday, December 6, 2004
The plan to secure bobwhite quail from another state and stock them in Pennsylvania in an attempt to reestablish a viable population of birds is not dead.
Don't expect biologists to get overly optimistic about its chances of success, though.
Officials with California University of Pennsylvania, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners have been working to bring quail to Pennsylvania. Right now, only scattered pockets of birds exist.
The goal would be to plant birds on a few sites -- including one or two in the southwestern corner of the state -- then close those areas to hunting and give the birds a chance to take root.
Scott Hull, a biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, visited Pennsylvania Nov. 16 to talk about that state's quail reintroduction project. He told Pennsylvania Game Commission officials that it has worked well in some places and not so well in others, relying on quail obtained from Kansas.
Cal DuBrock, director of the Game Commission's bureau of wildlife management, said that if Pennsylvania hopes to duplicate any of Ohio's success, it will have to overcome two problems -- it has yet to find a state willing to give it any quail and it really has nowhere to put them if it does get them.
DuBrock said the commission -- while willing to partner with other groups on the quail project -- has looked around the state at possible quail release sites. It has found none that are really suitable.
"We don't have any places that are a perfect fit, or as perfect a fit as we would like them to be," DuBrock said.
He's not overly optimistic, then, that even if quail proponents can find a state willing to supply Pennsylvania with birds they'll do well. The commission tried supporting quail once before on a game lands site on its own.
Birds did OK there, though manipulating habitat on the game lands to suit the quail was so costly that DuBrock doesn't know if the commission could carry similar measures out on a large scale. What's more, the birds never expanded into new areas because the habitat just didn't exist.
Given all that, DuBrock said those who would like to see bobwhite quail return to the state in big numbers would be better off investing in an evaluation of the state's habitat and then doing improvements in those areas -- if any -- that could conceivably support quail.
Until that's done, other states would be "foolish" to give Pennsylvania any quail, he said.
"They're a precious commodity. To put them on a landscape where they're going to die quickly or be susceptible to higher levels of predation makes no sense," DuBrock said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has awarded 36 grants totaling more than $1.2 million through the Wild Resource Conservation Program.
The money will fund projects aimed at protecting Pennsylvania's threatened plant and animal species.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History received $21,000 to monitor plant diversity by conducting field surveys in Greene and Crawford counties. It got another $40,540 to update the Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania.
Carnegie Museum received another $29,000 to study land snails of limestone communities in Bedford, Butler, Centre, Fayette, Greene, Huntingdon and Westmoreland counties and $11,271, to create a web site on land snails.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy got $30,000 to map invasive species and species of special concern for eight glacial lakes in western Pennsylvania. It was also awarded $39,000 to use radio-telemetry to learn more about the natural history of this secretive Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake in Butler, Mercer and Venango counties and $25,000, to inventory aquatic snails in lakes, reservoirs and larger rivers.
The conservancy also received $280,000 -- one of the larger grants handed out -- to complete Natural Heritage Inventories for all counties in western Pennsylvania.
California University of Pennsylvania got $25,469 to inventory the Monongahela River's large-bodied fish and record species diversity and distribution.
The Game Commission was awarded $10,000 to fund Wild Action grants that improve wildlife habitat on school grounds.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is offering teachers in grades four through 12 free videos on sportsmen-supported wildlife management efforts that have brought back once-endangered species like Rocky Mountain elk and wild turkey.
The videos are available at www.unendangeredspecies.org.
Sportsmen's groups and others can buy copies of the videos at the same site.
Bob Frye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 838-5148.