[Tweeters] Re: Mountain Quail releases

Jason Rogers hawkowl at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 17 18:30:41 PST 2005

Hi Wayne,

Thanks for providing the details of this release.  When I first heard of it, 
I wondered about where the parent stock originated and whether it was 
native, since fish and wildlife agencies are renowned for their lack of 
interest in preserving biodiversity.  After all, who can taste the 
difference between pictus and palmeri, right?  Your message confirmed what I 
had feared: the "reintroduction" was, in fact, an introduction.  I don't 
know whether the decision to release non-native quail was based on politics, 
financial constraints, indifference, or just plain know-it-allism, but I do 
know that it's long since time that we get the people who are making these 
kinds of decisions out of fish and wildlife and into a line of work where 
they're not doing irreparable damage to our natural heritage.

Jason Rogers
Banff, AB
hawkowl at hotmail.com

Subject: Mountain Quail releases
From: "Wayne C. Weber" <contopus AT telus.net>
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 20:09:47 -0800

Tweeters and OBOLinks,

I am forwarding the attached message, which I sent to the
"Inland-NW-Birders" group earlier today. I hope you will find it of
interest, whether or not you agree with my point of view.

Wayne C. Weber
Delta, BC
contopus AT telus.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Wayne C. Weber

Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 2:30 PM
Subject: Re: [inland-NW-birders] Mountain Quail releases

Charles and Inland Birders,

Thanks very much for providing the link to the WDFW news release
the release of 73 Mountain Quail in Asotin County. Mike Denny also
described this event in a message a few days ago.

This release was clearly well-intentioned. However, it has the
potential for being both good news and bad news.

Good news, because Mountain Quail populations in SE WA, NE
OR, and adjacent Idaho are apparently very low, and a recovery
of this species would be welcome. Bad news, because according
to the news release, the birds that were liberated were captured
in SW Oregon.

Two different subspecies of Mountain Quail occur in Oregon, according
to "Birds of Oregon: A General Reference" (Marshall et al., 2003):
"pictus" west of the Cascades, and "palmeri", a paler subspecies, east
of the Cascades (and also in SE Washington). The AOU Checklist, 5th
edition (1957) reverses the names for the two subspecies, but agrees
that there are different subspecies west and east of the Cascades.

In other words, birds from a subspecies other than the native one are
being introduced into Asotin County. Chances are that they will not be
well-adapted to local conditions and will die out; or, if they do
succeed, they will interbreed with or replace the native subspecies,
thus decreasing the genetic diversity within the species.

A far better approach, it seems to me, would have been to try to
capture birds of the eastern subspecies (palmeri), breed them in
captivity, and then reintroduce them into SE WA. There are apparently
still enough Mountain Quail in Wallowa County, OR, that there is still
a hunting season there, so some could perhaps have been captured

If Mountain Quail are to be reintroduced to Craig Mountain and other
places in Idaho, I hope that these birds are not also from SW Oregon.

Introducing a population of a non-local subspecies seems ill-advised
from a biological point of view. I had thought that most state
wildlife agencies had ceased some time ago to introduce non-native
species or subspecies of gamebirds. Obviously, I was wrong.

Of course, it may be that the subspecies of Mountain Quail in SE WA
and NE OR has already been confounded by past introductions into the
area. However, by continuing to introduce the "wrong" subspecies into
the area, wildlife agencies appear to be ignoring normal conservation
practices. They are also playing into the hands of those who say that
Great Basin populations of Mountain Quail are not distinct anyway, so
why designate them as threatened?

Wayne C. Weber
Delta, BC
contopus AT telus.net

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