[Federal Register: January 22, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 14)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 3000-3005]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-day Finding for 
a Petition To List the Mountain Quail as Threatened or Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the mountain quail (Oreortyx 
pictus) under the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended. We 
find the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that listing this species may be warranted.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on January 10, 

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U. S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office, 1387 
South Vinnell Way, Suite 368, Boise, ID 83709.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Ruesink, Supervisor, Snake River 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone: 208/378-
5243; facsimile: 208/378-5243; electronic mail: Bob_Ruesink@fws.gov).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that we make a finding 
on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information to demonstrate that 
the petitioned action may be warranted. This finding is to be based on 
all information available to us at the time we make the finding. To the 
maximum extent practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 days 
of our receipt of the petition, and the notice of the finding is to be 
published promptly in the Federal Register. Our standard for 
substantial information within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 
with regard to a 90-day petition finding is ``that amount of 
information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the 
measure proposed in the petition may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424J). If 
we find that substantial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly commence a review of the status of the involved species, if 
one has not already been initiated under our internal candidate 
assessment process.
    On March 28, 2000, we received a petition, dated March 15, 2000, 
from Rob Kavanaugh, Idaho Watersheds Project, Committee for Idaho's 
High Desert, and the Spokane Audubon Society requesting that the 
mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus), occurring in the northern and western 
Great Basin, the Interior Columbia Basin, and lands west to the Cascade 
Crest within Washington and Oregon, be listed as a threatened or 
endangered distinct population segment (DPS) under the Act (Kavanaugh 
et al. 2000). The petition clearly identified itself as such and 
contained the names and addresses of the petitioners.
    Accompanying the petition was information related to the taxonomy, 
life history, demographics, translocations, genetics, habitats, 
threats, and the past and present distribution of mountain quail. The 
petitioners contend that mountain quail populations occurring in the 
proposed DPS have sustained a dramatic range contraction caused by 
extensive loss of riparian habitats, loss of woody vegetation 
associated with riparian habitats, loss of interfacing upland shrub 
habitats, loss of plant species diversity, and simplification of 
habitats. The petitioners claim that 80 to 90 percent of riparian 
habitats essential to the mountain quail in arid interior lands have 
been lost, fragmented, or altered. This is in contrast to the more 
humid coastal forests of Oregon, Washington, and California, where 
mountain quail populations are more abundant and widespread due to 
broad areas of continuous habitat. In order to determine if substantial 
information is available to indicate that the petitioned action may be 
warranted, we have reviewed the following: the subject petition, 
literature cited in the petition, information provided by recognized 
experts or agencies cited in the petition, and information otherwise 
available in Service files.
    This 90-day petition finding is made in accordance with a 
settlement agreement that requires us to complete a finding by January 
15, 2003

[[Page 3001]]

(Committee for Idaho's High Desert et al. v. Badgley et al. (Civ. No. 
    The petitioner's request is to list mountain quail populations 
found throughout historically occupied portions east of the Cascade 
Crest in Washington and Oregon, historically occupied portions of 
western Idaho, and historically occupied portions east of the 
California/Nevada border south to the proximate vicinity of the 
Palmetto Mountains of southwestern Nevada.
    Mountain quail are members of the family of New World quail, 
Odontophorinae, within the Order Galliformes (Gutierrez et al. 1983). 
They were first described as Ortyx picta by D. Douglas in 1829, but the 
type specimen was lost and the type locality is unknown (Gutierrez and 
Delehanty 1999).
    Five subspecies of mountain quail recognized by the American 
Ornithological Union have been described using phenotypic appearances 
and geographical residency (Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999, Vogel and 
Reese 2002). The five subspecies by geographical areas are: Oreortyx 
pictus pictus, a resident in mountain regions of extreme western 
Nevada, the western side of the Cascade Range in southern Washington 
and south to the Sierra Nevada and inner Coast Ranges of California; O. 
p. palmeri, found in the western Coast Range from Washington south to 
San Luis Obispo County, California; O. p. eremophilus, a resident from 
the southern Sierra Nevada and central and southern Coast Ranges of 
California south through the Transverse Peninsular, Mexico; O. p. 
russelli, found in the Little San Bernardino Mountains, California; and 
O. p. confinis, a resident on northern Baja California, Mexico, 
primarily Sierra Juarez and Sierra San Pedro Mountains (Gutierrez and 
Delehanty 1999).
    Although these five subspecies are recognized by the American 
Ornithological Union, these designations are considered ambiguous. No 
quantitative estimates of morphological variation have been published, 
and genetic validity of these subspecies distinctions has not been 
substantiated through any peer-reviewed published studies. Gutierrez 
and Delehanty (1999) stated that these designations are based on 
``poorly defined comparative and ill-marked plumage characters; 
therefore, both subspecies and subspecies range are considered 
dubious.'' Genetic analysis is needed to clearly establish whether 
there is subspecies designation across the geographic range of mountain 
quail (Vogel and Reese 2002).
    The mountain quail is the largest North American quail north of 
Mexico (Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999). Males are slightly larger than 
females (264 to 308 millimeters (10.5 to 11.5 inches) in length and 
approximately 235 grams (7.6 ounces) in weight), but size is not a 
reliable indicator of sex. The sexes are monomorphic (similar in 
appearance). An adult's plumage consists of white side bars and a 
chestnut throat-patch with black, below a brilliant slate-blue head and 
neck. The mountain quail also has a long slender straight head plume 
composed of two feathers.
    Mountain quail occur in shrub-dominated communities that vary 
across habitat types throughout the range of the species (Vogel and 
Reese 1995, Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999). These habitats include 
chaparral, mixed desert scrub of the Mojave Desert, and early 
successional-stage shrub vegetation following fire, logging, and other 
disturbances. In the drier eastern portions of its range, mountain 
quail are normally found in steeper slope areas along riparian 
corridors consisting of mountain and riparian shrub communities. Within 
all habitat types, mountain quail are notable for their seasonal 
migrations between breeding and wintering areas (Vogel and Reese 1995, 
Delehanty 1997). These migrations vary from significant altitudinal 
migrations of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) among populations that 
summer at high elevation (i.e., Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range), to short 
altitudinal movements in low-elevation coastal areas to escape winter 
    On the basis of several food habit studies summarized by Vogel and 
Reese (1995) and Gutierrez and Delehanty (1999), we know that mountain 
quail eat primarily plant material throughout the year. Invertebrate 
animal matter makes up approximately 0 to 5 percent of the diet, 
although young mountain quail up to 8 weeks of age eat up to 20 percent 
animal matter (ants, beetles, and other invertebrates). Plant material 
consumed includes perennial seeds, fruits, flowers, and leaves, annual 
forbs and legumes, and mushrooms. Gutierrez (1980) describes the 
mountain quail as a ``sequential specialist'' that concentrates on food 
resources as they become seasonally available and abundant. The species 
uses diverse food-capturing methods, including digging for subterranean 
bulbs of some plants (e.g., Lithophragma spp., Brodiaea spp.), and 
climbing shrubs and trees for fruits and seeds.
    Similar to other quail species, mountain quail are able to breed at 
1 year of age, although reproduction is dependent upon the condition of 
breeding birds and is strongly influenced by winter/spring rainfall. 
Pair formation is thought to occur during late winter and early spring 
with nesting normally occurring from March to July, depending upon 
local climate, altitude, and latitude (Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999). 
Both male and female form incubation patches. Mountain quail are unique 
in that females often lay two clutches averaging 11 to 12 eggs, with 
male birds incubating the first clutch and females the second. This 
phenomenon is termed simultaneous multi-clutching (Delehanty 1997). The 
incubation period averages 24 days (range 23 to 25 days) and estimates 
of nest success from a limited number of studies averaged over 55 
percent (Vogel and Reese 1995). Substantial evidence suggests that 
males incubate and then brood recently hatched young (Delehanty 1997, 
Pope 2002). Many mountain quail coveys are assumed to be family groups 
comprised of adults and juveniles that remain together until the next 
year's breeding season.
    Mountain quail are presumed to be short-lived and subject to high 
levels of predation similar to other New World quail. On the basis of 
limited data, sex ratios are assumed to be nearly 1:1 for adults (Vogel 
and Reese 1995). Because mountain quail inhabit dense habitats and 
rugged terrain, populations can vary annually. Population surveys are 
difficult to conduct, and long-term population size and density studies 
are lacking. Data from the few studies conducted over the years have 
revealed mountain quail densities ranging from 9 to 54 birds/100 
hectares (ha) (9 to 54 birds/247 acres (ac)) at four study sites in 
northern California, 21 birds/100 ha (21 birds/247 ac) in coastal 
California, and 30 birds/100 ha (30 birds/247 ac) and 28 birds/100 ha 
(28 birds/247 ac) on Klamath Mountains and Sierra Nevada sites, 
respectively (as summarized by Vogel and Reese 1995).
    Accipiters, particularly Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperi), sharp-
shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), and the northern goshawk (Accipiter 
gentilis), are major predators of adult and young mountain quail 
(Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999, Vogel and Reese 2002). Other known 
predators include great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), coyote (Canis 
latrans), bobcat (Lynx rufus), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and 
rattlesnake (Crotalus spp.). Significant predation occurs on chicks 
during several days following hatching and when coveys are limited to 
habitats near water (Vogel and Reese 1995).
    Rangewide, mountain quail are distributed in five western states,

[[Page 3002]]

including California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho, as well as 
Baja Norte, Mexico (Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999, Crawford 2000). They 
are also found in small disjunct populations as introduced birds on 
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and on several islands within the 
San Juan Islands of Washington (Vogel and Reese 1995, Gutierrez and 
Delehanty 1999). Vogel and Reese (1998) quote R.D. Mallette (date 
unknown) that in the early 1970s, mountain quail were ``widely 
distributed over approximately 45 percent of the state [California] in 
suitable habitat in the mountainous areas from Mexico to the Oregon 
borders.'' Within the United States, California contains the largest 
populations and the widest distribution of this species. Mountain quail 
are legally hunted in many counties of California (California 
Department of Fish and Game 2002).
    In Nevada, the historic range of mountain quail in the Great Basin 
is poorly understood, with very little information available on their 
native distribution (Vogel and Reese 1995, Gutierrez and Delehanty 
1999, Crawford 2000). Several authors, quoted by Vogel and Reese 
(1995), reported that mountain quail were common on both slopes of the 
Sierra Nevada mountains (including Nevada) in the 1920s and ``a sparse 
resident in the mountainous areas of western Nevada.'' Guitierrez and 
Delehanty (1999) report that mountain quail occupy spur ranges of the 
eastern Sierra Nevada Range in western Nevada and are found in the 
higher foothill areas to the Sierra Crest where suitable habitat 
occurs. They also occur as small, scattered populations in the 
``Toiyobe, Desatoya, Jackson, and Santa Rosa Ranges of northern 
Nevada.'' In addition, Vogel and Reese (2002) present anecdotal 
evidence of mountain quail releases in the State, beginning in the 
1870s and continuing into the 1930s or early 1940s.
    Since the 1940s, hunter surveys and harvest reports indicate that 
populations have undergone local extinctions throughout their historic 
range in Nevada (Brennan 1994). From the 1950s to the 1980s, extensive 
range fires, invasive plants, reservoir construction, and livestock 
overgrazing have impacted or eliminated large areas of mountain quail 
habitat and as a consequence, mountain quail numbers and distribution 
have declined in many areas of Nevada. However, based on recent Nevada 
Division of Wildlife (NDOW) surveys, mountain quail have remained 
stable in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of Nevada (Vogel and 
Reese 2002). Since 1986, NDOW has released mountain quail into areas 
that they believe historically supported mountain quail, currently 
contain mountain quail, and/or sustain suitable habitat. From 1986 to 
2002, a total of 1,293 birds have been translocated to Nye, Churchill, 
Pershing, Washoe, Elko, and Lander counties in Nevada (Vogel and Reese 
2002). All of these mountain quail were captured from outside the 
petitioned DPS at the China Lakes Naval Air Weapons Station in the 
Mojave Desert of California (Vogel and Reese 2002).
    In Idaho, general information regarding the native distribution of 
mountain quail is ambiguous, although some evidence suggests mountain 
quail were present prior to European settlement. Three studies cited in 
Vogel and Reese (2002) describe possible archeological evidence of 
mountain quail in Idaho prior to the 1800s. Gruhn (1961) documented one 
specimen of mountain quail from bones in Wilson Butte Cave, Jerome 
County, south-central Idaho; Murphey (1991) reported a possible 
mountain quail pictograph found at the Jarbidge rock site, Jerome 
County, southwestern Idaho; and Rudolph (1995) identified mountain 
quail bones from the Hetrick site in the Weiser River Valley, 
Washington County. The pictograph is an abstract rendition that 
portrays a gallinaceous-like bird with prominent barring on the side of 
the body, heavy bill and feet, and top-knot, which is short and curved 
over the top of the head as in California quail (Callipepla 
californica) (Crawford 2000). The mountain quail bone material was 
identified using comparative techniques of bones known to be mountain 
quail. The possible mountain quail bone material collected from these 
two archaeological sites may be positively verified by protein 
synthesis analysis and dated using radiometric techniques (Miller, 
Faunal Analysis and CRM Services, pers. comm. 2002). Crawford (2000) 
suggests that these birds may represent remnant populations from 
Pleistocene glaciation.
    Today, mountain quail in Idaho occur at the extreme northeastern 
edge of their range-wide distribution. Mountain quail were translocated 
successfully in Idaho beginning in the late 1800s (Crawford 2000, Vogel 
and Reese 2002). For example, as summarized by Crawford (2000), 
mountain quail were translocated to Kootenai County using birds 
captured from western Washington in 1897. Other mountain quail were 
translocated to Ada, Owyhee, and Lincoln counties in the 1920s, 
although the origin of these birds is generally unknown. Mountain quail 
were present in the 1930s throughout the central and southwestern areas 
of Idaho (Vogel and Reese 1998). In the 1950s, they were still found 
along riparian areas in central and southwestern Idaho, but overall 
numbers had declined since the 1930s, particularly in Nez Perce and 
Latah counties. Various causes of decline have been identified. Vogel 
and Reese (1998) cited a paper by T.B. Murray (1938) that suggested 
that drought and habitat alterations reduced mountain quail numbers by 
more than 50 percent in western Idaho, and that suitable food and cover 
were also reduced by more than 50 percent from the turn of the century 
until the 1930s.
    During the 1980s, numbers declined steadily, and the only remaining 
populations that exist now are in the lower Salmon and Snake River 
drainages and the foothill and mountain areas of the Boise River 
drainage (Robertson 1989). Although mountain quail have been 
infrequently sighted in these areas since the 1980s, recent mating call 
surveys in several areas of the Boise River drainage found no evidence 
of their presence (Kniesel 2002). The hunting season for mountain quail 
in Idaho was closed in 1984.
    The first recorded information on mountain quail in Oregon was of a 
specimen collected in 1806 by Reubin Field, a member of the Lewis and 
Clark expedition (Jackle et al. 2002, Pope 2002). During the same 
expedition, two other mountain quail were collected near Rooster Rock 
State Park, Multnomah County, along the Columbia River. Mountain quail 
translocations began as early as 1860 in the Pacific Northwest, with 
one reference that all mountain quail in the Willamette Valley of 
Oregon resulted from introductions (Crawford 2000). These 
translocations, combined with natural and subsequent movement patterns, 
may have accounted for more recent (post-1900) distributions of 
mountain quail in many parts of eastern Oregon and into western Idaho 
(Jackle et al. 2002). Vogel and Reese (1995) reported that historically 
mountain quail occupied more extensive areas in Oregon than they did in 
the early 1900s, primarily because of the ``open burns and logged-over 
areas that have replaced enormous areas of the original dense forest of 
the Pacific Northwest.'' Recently logged areas in the Cascades, Coast 
Range, and Klamath mountains provide excellent shrub habitat for 
mountain quail and may have allowed some populations on the west slope 
of the Cascades to expand their range (Vogel and Reese 1995). 
Gabrielson and Jewett (1940), as referenced by Vogel and Reese (1995), 
reported mountain quail in suitable

[[Page 3003]]

habitat throughout the Coast and Cascade Ranges and the Rogue, Umpqua, 
and Willamette valleys of western Oregon. In contrast, populations in 
eastern Oregon occupy riparian shrub habitats that have declined from 
historic levels. Current data indicate that mountain quail are found in 
low densities in Union, Wallowa, Wasco, and Wheeler counties, and are 
moderately abundant in Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jefferson, and Klamath 
Counties (Vogel and Reese 2002).
    Crawford (2000) concludes that the distribution and abundance of 
mountain quail remained relatively constant during the mid-twentieth 
century throughout Oregon. But within the past 25 years, populations 
outside of the early historic distribution have suffered substantial 
declines, whereas populations in the Coast and Cascade Ranges of Oregon 
continue to remain abundant. These downward trends in populations have 
prompted Pope (2002) and Jackle et al. (2002) to undertake comparative 
studies by of populations found west of the Cascade Crest (which are 
stable or abundant) with populations found in central and eastern 
Oregon. Both studies have demonstrated that an effective restoration 
effort for mountain quail is feasible using wild birds trapped in 
western Oregon and released in central and eastern Oregon. However, 
translocations programs will be more effective when evaluated through 
post-release monitoring. Oregon still maintains a hunting season in 
western and northeastern Oregon for mountain quail.
    In Washington, following translocations of mountain quail from the 
1860s to the early 1900s, historical accounts reported mountain quail 
west of the Cascade Mountains and in the Blue Mountains in southeastern 
Washington (Crawford 2000). Mountain quail are currently found 
throughout portions of western Washington with the strongest population 
found on the Olympic Peninsula (Washington Department of Wildlife (WDW) 
1993; Ware, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, pers. comm. 
2002). They have been recorded in the past in Mason, Kitsap, Pierce, 
King, Thurston, Clark, Skamania, Garfield, Columbia, Asotin, and Walla 
Walla Counties, although the precise delineation of the species's 
distribution is poorly understood (WDW 1993) and they may be extirpated 
from Asotin, Garfield, and Columbia Counties (Ware pers. comm. 2002). 
As noted in Crawford (2000), translocations also took place on Whidbey 
Island, San Juan Island, and elsewhere in Washington.
    Little evidence suggests that mountain quail were native to 
Washington (WDW 1993, Vogel and Reese 1995). Vogel and Reese (1995), in 
their research on the topic of native status, found that many authors 
believed that the Columbia River was the northern limit of the species' 
range, and that mountain quail were introduced to Washington. Birds 
from multiple sources were translocated into Washington resulting in 
mixing of various subspecies. Current distributions in western 
Washington have remained stable, but populations in eastern Washington 
have been in a severe decline, as reported by Vogel and Reese (2002). 
Washington maintains a hunting season for mountain quail in the western 
part of the State only.
    The petitioners requested that we list those populations of 
mountain quail east of the Cascade Crest and Sierra Mountain Ranges 
within Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada as a threatened or 
endangered DPS of the species under the Act. Under our DPS policy (61 
FR 4722; February 7, 1996), we use three elements to assess whether a 
population under consideration for listing may be recognized as a DPS: 
(1) A population segment's discreteness from the remainder of the 
taxon; (2) the population segment's significance to the taxon to which 
it belongs; and (3) ``[t]he population segment's conservation status in 
relation to the Act's standards for listing (i.e., is the population 
segment, when treated as if it were a species, endangered or 
threatened?).'' If we determine that a population being considered for 
listing may represent a DPS, then the level of threat to the population 
is evaluated on the basis of the five listing factors established by 
the Act to determine if listing it as either threatened or endangered 
may be warranted.
    A population segment of a vertebrate species may be considered 
discrete if it satisfies either of the following conditions. The first 
condition is whether the species' population is markedly separated, or 
isolated, from other populations of the same taxon ``as a consequence 
of physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors.'' When 
these four factors are evaluated, ``[q]uantitative measures of genetic 
or morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this 
separation.'' The second condition, which does not apply here, is 
whether the population segment be ``delimited by international 
governmental boundaries within which differences in control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of 
the Act.''
    In determining the discreteness, or isolation, of mountain quail 
populations found within the proposed DPS, one of the factors we 
consider is physical separation from the rest of the taxon. The 
petitioners did not provide substantial information, either through 
text description, map attachments, or references in the petition, to 
demonstrate that the populations of mountain quail along the western 
border of the proposed DPS are physically isolated from nearby eastern 
populations in Oregon and Nevada.
    Although mountain quail are associated with separate locations 
within the proposed DPS on a landscape consisting of various mountain 
ranges and intervening valleys, they are able to move between these 
areas (Gutierrez and Delehanty 1999; Pope, Oregon State University, 
pers. comm. 2002). No physical barrier appears to exist that would 
preclude the movement of birds across this landscape and hypothetical 
boundary separating the petitioned and non-petitioned areas and prevent 
mountain quail populations from intermixing. For example, the current 
distribution of mountain quail, as depicted in the petition, shows 
contiguous distribution between California and Nevada, and also between 
Oregon and California. Exceptions to this continuity exist: some 
populations in the extreme eastern range of mountain quail are 
presently disjunct from natural exchange with mountain quail outside 
the petitioned area. For example, current distributions of mountain 
quail are disjunct in some areas of Idaho and northern Nevada. However, 
when we consider the proposed DPS boundaries as delineated by the 
petitioners, there is a blend of both disjunct populations and 
continuous population areas that do not meet the discreteness standard 
under our DPS policy.
    Further complicating the question of discreteness is the documented 
translocation of mountain quail from areas outside and within the 
proposed DPS geographical area during the past 130 years (Vogel and 
Reese 1995, 1998; Jobanek 1997; Crawford 2000; Jackle et al. 2002). 
Crawford (2000) in his review of the subject found documented releases 
of mountain quail in western Idaho and throughout Oregon and 
Washington. Vogel and Reese (2002) in their review of Nevada found 
anecdotal evidence that ``sportsmen, ranchers, and miners released 
mountain quail across the state beginning in the 1870s and continuing 
to the 1930s or early 40s.'' In their review of the distribution of 18

[[Page 3004]]

species of gallinaceous birds of North America, Aldrich and Duvall 
(1955) noted that mountain quail were native to the Pacific coastal 
region of the extreme western United States. They state that mountain 
quail were established after introductions into the mountains of 
eastern Washington, western Idaho, eastern Oregon, and central Nevada.
    During the past 20 years, information addressing translocations of 
mountain quail by State agencies has been better documented than it had 
been in prior years. For example, a total of 1,293 mountain quail have 
been released in Nevada counties, including Nye, Churchhill, Pershing, 
Washoe, Elko, and Lander, since 1986 (Vogel and Reese 2002). All birds 
were captured at the China Lakes Naval Weapons Station, Mojave Desert, 
California, an area that is outside and west of the proposed DPS 
geographical area. In Oregon, 75 mountain quail were captured in the 
western Cascade Mountain Range of southwestern Oregon and translocated 
into northeastern Oregon between 1997 and 1999, partly to assess 
breeding range movements of both resident and translocated mountain 
quail (Pope 2002). Additionally, a total of 209 mountain quail were 
translocated to three separate locations in central Oregon in 2001 
using birds that were captured in western Oregon (Jackle et al. 2002) 
as part of a restoration plan.
    The DPS policy states that genetic information may be used to 
provide evidence of separation. The numerous historic and recent 
translocation efforts as discussed above may have lead to genetic 
homogenization of mountain quail. Assessing evidence of genetic 
separation among either historic or current populations of mountain 
quail is likely to be complicated by past translocation efforts. No 
comprehensive genetic evaluation for discreteness of mountain quail 
rangewide or within in the proposed DPS is currently available. Also, 
the petitioners submit that the genetic differentiation of mountain 
quail subspecies or populations has not been adequately tested, and 
refer to unpublished preliminary data that indicate no genetic 
differences exist among mountain quail in western North America 
(Kavanaugh et al. 2000).
    Additionally, in evaluating information regarding translocations, 
it is difficult to discern which are introductions, reintroductions, or 
supplementations of existing mountain quail populations. 
``Introduction'' has been used to define the release of a species in a 
new range, ``reintroduction'' refers to release of a species into 
historical range that is no longer inhabited by that species, and 
``supplementation'' is release of the species into currently inhabited 
range (Vogel and Reese 2002). Given the history of translocations of 
mountain quail, it is currently difficult to clearly identify the 
historical native range of the species. The petitioners make no attempt 
to distinguish between the species' potential native or introduced 
    Two other factors to consider with regard to discreteness or 
isolation of a population are the behavioral and morphological aspects. 
Delehanty (1997) initiated a study to determine behavioral differences 
and similarities in male and female mountain quail. He also examined 
and was successful at developing a method to determine genetic 
detectability of sex using microsatellite fragments from undegraded 
DNA. He concluded that many behavioral displays are universal among 
both sexes of mountain quail, while some are particular only to males. 
These behaviors were observed by Delehanty (1997) in captive-reared 
birds and in wild populations at sites in the eastern Sierra Nevada of 
east central California, western Nevada, and in the Mojave Desert of 
southern California. He further confirmed the monomorphic plumage and 
size characteristics of mountain quail from known geographical places. 
The study served to demonstrate that behavioral and morphological 
aspects are not limiting factors in reproduction when translocation is 
considered. These conclusions were further confirmed by Pope and 
Crawford (2001) in controlled studies of wild populations of mountain 
quail when 75 birds were translocated from the Cascades of southwestern 
Oregon to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in northeastern Oregon. 
The petitioners did not provide evidence to document whether mountain 
quail within the proposed DPS exhibit any unique behavioral or 
morphological traits. No information is presented in the petition, nor 
is any available in Service files, to indicate that any physical, 
genetic, behavioral, morphological, physiological, or ecological 
differences between mountain quail that occur in the proposed DPS and 
those found outside of it.
    In summary, to make a DPS determination, we examined the physical, 
physiological, ecological, and behavioral factors and considered the 
complicating nature of past translocation efforts. Since there are no 
international government boundaries of significance, this condition for 
a finding of discreteness was not considered in reaching this 
determination. Neither the information presented in the petition nor 
that available in Service files presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information to demonstrate that the DPS, as proposed for 
mountain quail by the petitioners, is discrete from the remainder of 
the taxon. Accordingly, we are unable to define a listable entity of 
mountain quail within those areas of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and 
Nevada as described in the petition. Therefore, we did not address the 
second element for determining a DPS, which is the potential 
significance of discrete populations of mountain quail to the remainder 
of the taxon. Finally, since no DPS of mountain quail can be defined at 
this time, we did not evaluate its status as endangered or threatened 
on the basis of either the Act's definitions of those terms or the 
factors in section 4(a) of the Act.

Petition Finding

    We have reviewed the petition, obtainable literature cited in the 
petition, other pertinent literature, and information available in 
Service files, and we have consulted with State and Federal agency 
biologists. After our review, we find the petition does not present 
substantial information to indicate that the petitioned action is 
warranted. This finding is based on the following: (a) Insufficient 
information exists to enable us to determine whether the mountain quail 
in the proposed DPS are separated from other mountain quail throughout 
the range of the taxon; (b) complicating information about past 
translocations of mountain quail currently precludes clearly 
determining the native historical distribution of the species; and (c) 
evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that genetic, morphological, 
ecological, or behavioral differences exist among extant mountain quail 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Snake River Basin Fish and Wildlife Office (see 


    The primary author of this notice is Rich Howard, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

[[Page 3005]]

    Dated: January 10, 2003.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-1283 Filed 1-21-03; 8:45 am]