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This Unique Restoration Project Has Been Successful. Will The State Expand It?

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, bobwhite quail are slowly returning to New Jersey.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, bobwhite quail are slowly returning to New Jersey.

The birds, sometimes called a firebird because of their dependence on occasional fires to reset their grassland habitat, were once an iconic keystone species in the Pinelands.

Their presence filled a key niche in the delicate ecosystem, and their abundant numbers meant good hunting for generations of New Jersey outdoorsmen. But habitat loss spurred on by development and changing forest management practices wiped out the quail population in the the Garden State decades ago.

Now, new work being done in South Jersey is laying the groundwork for the return of the quail.

At the end of March, New Jersey Audubon released 80 of the birds at a cranberry farm in Burlington County. The release was the latest step in the group's four year long effort to show that bobwhite quail captured elsewhere can establish a new permanent population in New Jersey.

A partnership between non-profit New Jersey Audubon, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, and private landowners at Pine Island Cranberry, the quail restoration effort is proving to be one of the most successful conservation projects in New Jersey. The project is in its fourth year; in 2015 was the first time that nesting pairs of bobwhite quail had been spotted in the Garden State in nearly 30 years.

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