Officials bringing back small game bird that disappeared from Pennsylvania

(WHTM)– A small game bird, once in all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties before it vanished in the 1990’s, is back.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission released 50 bobwhite quail on Letterkenny Army Depot grounds in Franklin County on Tuesday. The birds are a “final brick in a foundation the Game Commission began laying more than a decade ago,” the PGC wrote in a news release.

“This is an exciting time, the next chapter in a story of wildlife restoration,” Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said. “It’s difficult – not impossible, but difficult – to take any species that’s disappeared and bring it back again.”

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That has already been done in Pennsylvania with white-tailed deer, bald eagles and peregrine falcons, species that one time were scarce in the state but are now thriving.

The quails began to disappear as their farmland habitat did over the years and they were declared gone from within our state borders after conducting extensive surveys in 2013 and 2014, however, officials believe that they were lost in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

In 2017, the PGC and Letterkenny worked to create a restoration site and bobwhite quail habitat by managing about 2,700 acres of the depot that was focused on “the repair and modernization of air and missile defense systems.”

Then, officials got bobwhite experts to assess the potential for habitat and to grade the work that was being done and declared the area ready for birds in 2023.

The birds will continue to be monitored by officials after release, and each quail has a leg band while a subset of them have radio collars so it will be easier to track them, the release states.

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According to the PGC, bobwhite quail are productive breeders but have short lifespans and are prone to dramatic population swings.

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