Numbers show drop in quail continuing


March 20, 1994|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Staff Wrlter

Quail are noted for abrupt rises or declines in their numbers. But Peter Jayne, leader of Maryland's upland game and furbearer programs, said last week that during the past 15 years the state's quail population has shown a sharp downward trend.

When measured by the hunter harvest survey, the quail populatlon has dropped from 250,000 birds in 1975 to fewer than 42,000 in 1991.

"That is an 82-percent decline," Jayne said.

The harvest survey is based on numbers of quail killed, and that is directly related to the number of hunters in the field. So, with the number of quail hunters decreasing in recent years, one might argue that the harvest survey figures are not a fair gauge of the quail population.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service breeding surveys of Maryland's eastern-zone quail, however, also show an alarming trend from 1975 to 1993.

"Quail there is off more than 50 percent in that span," Jayne said. According to the USFWS survey, the drop has been from a high of roughly 160,000 in 1981 to about 70,000 last year.

In southern Maryland, the trend shows a decline from a high of nearly 30,000 in 1975 to 5,000 last year.

On the Upper Eastern Shore the drop has been from a high of some 58,000 in 1982 to about 32,000 last year. On the lower shore, the drop has been from highs of about 72,000 in 1982-83 to approximately 42,000 last year.

One of the primary reasons for the diminishing populations is the loss of habitat -- field edges, tall roadside growth and overgrown fence lines.

Because of the decreasing population in the eastern zone, hunters will again be faced with a 13-day reduction in the coming season.

Bird Dog rescheduled

The American Kennel Club's first National Bird Dog Championship, scheduled for last week at the Blair Valley Wildlife Area near Cleap Springs, has been rescheduled for April 4-8 at the same site. AKC Officials said hard winter weather prevented grounds keepers from preparing the trials site and caused the postponement.

Safety seminar at academy

The annual Safety-at-Sea Seminar will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy's Mitscher Hall on Saturday and next Sunday, with tickets for one day priced at $40 and for both days at $70.

The seminar, in its 15th year, is an excellent program, so tickets may be scare. For ticket information, call the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce at (410) 268-7676.

Seminar topics include boat preparation and damage control, weather and the elements, heavy-weather sailing and preparation, boat gear and preparation and life raft survival.

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