BOBWHITE QUAIL MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER ANIMALS?
by Whit Gibbons
October 14, 2002
The EPA plans to fine quail plantation owners in southern Georgia for
what a colleague describes as "the criminal and unethical behavior
of planting extremely deadly poisoned eggs on their properties."
And by fines, I mean more than 5 million dollars!
been the recipient of unfriendly letters from a few Georgia quail enthusiasts
two years ago after writing an article decrying such predator control
practices, I cannot say I am sorry. Of course, the EPA must assure that
the actual perpetrators are the ones fined.
the issue has resurfaced, I checked with someone in the know. Although
my contact prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal in his job,
he is unquestionably an authoritative and reliable source. His statements
below reveal what might be perceived as a problem.
of the political weight many of these plantation owners have, from local
government right up to Washington, D.C., they have hardly received a
wristslap for their actions. As a professional biologist responsible
for and passionate about wildlife conservation, I am not about to miss
this chance to educate those less familiar with the issue.
quail are definitely a declining species that is not debatable. However,
the primary cause of their decline is the loss and deterioration of
their preferred habitat, not predation of their nests. Most of the implicated
plantations have fantastic habitat that has not only preserved the quail,
but also a whole suite of otherwise rare plants and animals that depend
on the longleaf pine wiregrass ecosystem.
many of the southwest Georgia plantations are proud of their rare wildlife
and manage their properties for biodiversity. Unfortunately, many others
care about one species only, the bird that brings in the big, big bucks
and the prestige of national celebrities, especially politicians. Having
naturally normal populations of quail is not good enough they seek quail
infestation. If you want lots of money and lots of big names, you must
be able to flush more coveys than the next plantation. It's a competition,
and it is rooted in financial and egotistical gain. Hence the reason
their owners and managers seek methods to eliminate anything and everything
that naturally depredates or competes with quail.
chemical and concentration used to poison eggs, and thus egg predators,
not only killed those animals that ate them, but also killed animals
that just briefly touched the poisoned animal corpses. Butterflies even
died the moment they landed on dead, poisoned animals! These pesticides
can even kill a small child, a disaster that almost happened at a Jasper
County, South Carolina, quail plantation where a young child had to
be rushed to the emergency room after unknowingly playing with a poisoned
egg. If the egg had broken open, authorities said he would have very
worst part of this story is that politicians came to the defense of
the plantation managers who demanded support for better ways to control
quail predators that threaten their sufficiently thick, yet tainted,
wallets and their ability to attract the rich and famous. In the environmental
section of one Georgia congressman's periodic newsletters to his constituents,
he touted his efforts to secure $625,000 for predator control studies,
to be implemented for the benefit of the plantations that are dealing
with slightly less than highly excessive quail populations. In other
words, instead of being punished for criminal and wildlife ethics violations,
the plantations are being rewarded."
ends by saying, "I think bobwhite quail are fabulous birds, and
I want future Georgians to be able to hear them, see them, hunt them,
eat them, and enjoy them forever and ever. Improving their habitat is
the right way to do it. Killing all other wildlife that also likes to
hear them, see them, hunt them, eat them, and enjoy them is not."
I end by saying that a decline in bobwhite quail is unfortunate, and
research to determine the cause is appropriate. But indicting natural
predators as the culprits is not. If native wildlife is the cause of
quail population declines, then we face far more severe environmental
problems than the loss of a single species of bird.
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