Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 24

The release, however, would have
been before heath hens were designated
extirpated or extinct in the Garden State,
and calls into question when native heath
hens really were gone there.
Phillips also reported nearly all the
eastern states, including Pennsylvania,
received considerable numbers of prairie
chickens between 1869 and 1893.
Since the Game Commission wasn't
created until 1895, only newspaper or
magazine accounts likely would provide
record of such a release in Pennsylvania.
And if it did occur, it seems likelier the
work of a well-to-do landowner, sportsmen's club, or an upstart birding club than
the Commonwealth.
Phillips reported two significant prairie-chicken releases in his pamphlet. "...
some of the shipments were large, for at
least a thousand came into Massachusetts," he reported, "... and at Berlin,
Worchester County, Md., where two pairs
were liberated about 1869, they were said
to have increased in five years to at least
2,000 birds!"
George Bird Grinnell confirmed the
stockings in a 1919 book. However, the
claim of 2,000 birds seems unlikely.
In 1872, W. E. Newton, of Smithtown,
introduced 30 pairs of prairie chickens
from Iowa to Long Island, N.Y.; the birds
were breeding and doing well two years
later, according to an article in Forest and
Stream's March 12, 1874 edition.
Poole also wrote in his 1949 Frontiers
article of "100 pairs" being released in
New Jersey's Burlington County in 1880,
which is corroborated in a Forest and
Stream article.
Bought at $7 per pair, the birds were
released and drifted into the state's pine
barrens, Forest and Stream reported in its
Sept. 3, 1885 edition.
"As far as is known not one chicken
24

was ever seen after it left the preserve,"
the magazine reported.
That none of these stockings or transplants took hold is evident by the absence
of heath hens or prairie chickens in the
eastern states at the start of the 20th century, except at Martha's Vineyard.
So, despite the effort, and maybe some
immediate success, the western birds
didn't last.
But those early failures haven't deterred
scientists.
In 2014, more research began to determine whether the heath hen was genetically distinct from the prairie chicken.
The work, by Revive and Restore, a
Sausalito, Calif. company, would eventually use domestic chickens - close relatives to heath hens - to breed and hatch
clutches of revived heath hens that would
prove their capabilities to fit in and reproduce on Martha's Vineyard.
What Revive and Restore's genetics
work unveils could be eye-opening. Either
way, the research should shed further light
on heath-hen taxonomy.
The heath hen has been absent for a
long time in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania. It rarely is discussed, even in reviews
of Penn's Woods' past, because it usually
seems more fitting to talk about those
charismatic passenger pigeons, maybe
even Carolina parakeets.
But the heath hen is an important part
of Pennsylvania's past; its flesh likely was
a staple to our earliest colonists. Some
claim it had a good chance of being the
bird eaten at the first Thanksgiving at
Plymouth Rock.
Regardless, the heath hen is gone.
History has shown tasty birds that were
unflappable in the presence of people
rarely lasted long on any landscape where
hunting provided most meals.
This bird was no exception.



Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 5
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 7
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 20
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 21
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 22
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 23
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 24
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 25
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 26
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 27
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 28
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 29
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 30
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 31
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - 36
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Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - August 2018 - Cover4
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