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AK MARITIME: Ptarmigan Restoration Continues Following Fox Removal
Alaska Region, November 17, 2004
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As part of an ongoing effort to re-establish native biodiversity throughout Alaska Maritime Refuge following removal of introduced foxes, in the summer of 2004 Refuge staff continued a project focused on restoring the rarest of four endemic subspecies of rock ptarmigan found in the Aleutian Islands. Evermann's Rock Ptarmigan, formerly found throughout the Near Islands in the western Aleutians, were extirpated by foxes from all but the largest island, Attu. Because these ptarmigan do not normally fly great distances, they failed to reoccupy other islands despite fox removal since the 1970s. Using Challenge Cost Share funds, along with mitigation funds from National Missile Defense System work on nearby Shemya Island, a project was initiated to capture birds at Attu Island for release on Agattu Island 30 miles away. As far as we know, rock ptarmigan have never been translocated, so the team had to develop capture, holding, and transport techniques. Capture methods included noose poles, noose carpets, throw nets, taped calls, and decoys. Ultimately 46 adults and 5 young birds were moved by the Refuge's 120-foot research vessel M/V Tiglax from Attu to Agattu in 2003 and 2004. Refuge staff were aided by expert volunteers including international grouse and ptarmigan expert Clait Braun, Grouse Unlimited, and Bill Taylor, retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game veterinarian and upland game bird expert. In 2005, the team will evaluate the success of the translocation by conducting surveys on Agattu to evaluate survival of released birds and to determine whether young have been successfully raised there.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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