Volume XI, Issue 43 ~ October 23-29, 2003

Current Issue
This Weeks Lead Story
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Sky and Sea
Not Just for Kids
8 Days a Week
Bayweekly in Your Mailbox
Print Advertising
Bay Weekly Links
Behind Bay Weekly
Contact Us

Powered by

Search bayweekly.com
Search WWW

Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar

Plenty of Turkey; Too Little Quail

My truck rumbled down the long drive lined with big hardwoods toward the big farmhouse set atop a soft rolling knoll off a small feeder creek along the Chester River. A gaggle of turkeys, mostly hens and a perhaps a few jakes, strutted across the gravel road, then made a mad dash into the cover of the under story when startled by a churning diesel. The young ones darted in the wrong way and in a comical about-face scampered back across when they realized their error.

The timing of the encounter was ironic considering the assessment of the state’s turkey population made just a few days earlier by Jim Gilford of Maryland’s Wild Turkey Advisory Committee. His comments jibed with what I’ve seen around Queen Anne’s, Dorchester and Somerset counties, which is that Maryland’s wild turkey population is extremely fit.

Hunters after a gobbler get their chance October 25 through November 1 in Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties. The bag limit is one bird per season per day, either sex.

In June, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service reported that hunters harvested 3,120 wild turkeys, which was only slightly lower than the 2002 record harvest of 3,127.

At the time, DNR’s wildlife and heritage director said, “Maryland’s wild turkey population is at or near all-time highs, but the cold, rainy weather hampered many hunters this year.”

Looking back over an old DNR press release, I noted with interest that the five counties with the highest harvest were Garrett (431), Allegany (332), Washington (325), Dorchester (325) and Worcester (304).

These numbers support DNR’s position that after a 20-year restoration effort, the wild turkey population has stabilized throughout much of the state. Increases in counties such as Somerset, Talbot and Worcester continue, thus providing more turkey-hunting opportunities for Maryland’s sportsmen and women.

Critical to all wildlife — gamebirds, mammals or songbirds — is proper habitat. The turkeys on that farm have plenty of it and the state turkey program is clearly working.

But other bird species aren’t doing so well. According DNR biologist Bob Long, bobwhite quail, once abundant on Maryland’s farms and natural areas, are in serious decline. A U.S. Fish & Wildlife breeding survey from 1966 to 2001 shows a 90 percent decline in the last four decades.

This free-fall isn’t limited to game birds like quail and pheasant. In fact, eight of nine species with similar habitat requirements — shrubby hedgerows, grasslands and thinned forests for timber industry — such as the Eastern meadowlark, prairie warbler and Eastern towhee, are also in dire straits.

The main reason is the same that is also strangling the Bay: the swallowing up of land by development. But initiatives like The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program can help restore the habitat of native species while improving water quality.

The program has been effective in buffer establishment; as of June of this year, more than 63,000 acres are enrolled in the program statewide. More than half are grass buffers.

But the bottom line is that without the land, no species stands a chance against the crush of humanity — despite our best intentions.

to the top



© COPYRIGHT 2003 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated October 23, 2003 @ 1:18am