Bringing back native wildlife | Sports

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Among the many goals of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, such as enforcing gambling laws, protecting extant species, and monitoring environmental concerns, is the goal to, when reasonably possible, restore native species. lost or in decline.

Over the years, the commission has had many successes, some due to the efforts of the commission and others due to changes in our environment or social attitudes. Species once at risk, but with good management, are now safe, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey and elk. More recent successes would be those of the fisher, otter and bald eagle. Thanks to the concern of the commission and the funding provided by hunters and trappers, many species, game and non-game, have benefited.

Two species considered for future recovery are bobwhite quail and American marten.

The Bobwhite Quail, once fairly common in our southernmost counties, has been lost due to a number of factors including harsh winter conditions and habitat loss. A grassland bird, as agricultural areas expanded, the lack of suitable habitat soon caught up with the quail, bringing the number of wild birds down to near zero.

In an effort to bring back the quail, at least in limited numbers, the commission will focus its efforts in a 177 square mile area in and around the Letterkenny Army Depot in Greene Township, Franklin County.

The reintroduction of wild birds imported from outside of Pennsylvania is expected to begin in the spring of 2024. The birds will be released for three to four years in hopes that they will re-establish a breeding population. While the future for wild birds across the state is nearly non-existent, even a small limited population would be considered worth the effort by many wildlife enthusiasts.

In the case of the American marten, should the commission decide to move forward with recovery plans for this fur-bearing animal, efforts would be directed towards the release of animals captured in the Great Woodland area of ​​the State. A forest animal, the marten is closely related to species such as mink and fisher. With its diverse diet, as well as its preference for small mammals and birds as food, the chances of re-establishing this predator would be considered high.

While the occasional marten appears in Pennsylvania, these creatures are considered transient, coming from neighboring states. The combination of released animals with these natural visitors could very likely prove to be a first step in developing a population of marten across much of the state, expanding as the fisherman did in areas never believed possible.

Will residents of Pennsylvania ever get to see an American marten quietly gliding through a Keystone State Forest? Will we again be entitled to the comforting sound of the bobwhite quail? We can only hope. Although thanks to concerns from the PA Game Commission and our state’s wildlife enthusiasts, both might be possible.

Currently, interest in the recovery of formerly native species is high. With more and more success stories, we hope interest and financial support will continue to grow.

If you support such projects, contact the PA Game Commission and let them know that these efforts are supported. The future of Pennsylvania wildlife is in our hands. Let’s all be the best stewards of the earth we can be.

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