13, 2001, Gazette)
of representatives from the Partridge Forever Society, the Newfoundland
and Labrador Wildlife Division and MUN to discuss research with ptarmigan
(partridge). (front row, L-R) Ellen Jedrey, M.Sc. student, Biopsychology;
Jim Hancock, NF Wildlife Division; Ray Anthony, president, Partridge Forever
Society; Shane Mahoney, research director, Wildlife Division. (Back row,
L-R) Darroch Whitaker, PhD student, Virginia Tech; Bill Montevecchi, Psychology;
Bob Noseworthy, Partridge Forever Society; David Moores, registrar, Partridge
By Alexander Dalziel
Hunters seem to be caught in a bit of a paradox they love to eat
what they hunt, but they love even more to hunt what they eat. In other
words, if the ptarmigan is the target of your obsession, you will want
to make sure there are partridge forever.
This is the thinking behind a recent donation of $15,000 to Memorials
biopsychology program by Partridge Forever, a local group of avid partridge
hunters. They want to ensure that their hobby does not adversely affect
the partridge population so that they can continue to enjoy the excitement
of the hunt into the future. The money, collected entirely from fundraising
efforts, will work to that end.
The ptarmigan (lagopus lagopus), or partridge (as it is known in
Newfoundland), lives on the barrens and around the bogs of our province.
Popular as a delicacy in the Newfoundland culinary tradition, it is also
admired for the colour of its plumage, which changes from season to season
and varies between males and females.
Partridge Forever was founded in 1992 by avid partridge hunters who were
noting a decrease in the number of birds. It currently has some 300 members
from around the province, with a few from St. Pierre and from the United
States. Ray Anthony, president of the society, explained to the Gazette
that the society has a newsletter, brings in special speakers, runs contests
at schools to promote knowledge of partridge, and liaises with government
wildlife officials. We try to learn as much as we can and make that
information available, he said.
In the early 1990s, the need for some sort of action was clear. At
that time there didnt seem to be as many birds as there used to
be, said David Moores, founding president of Partridge Forever.
We are consumptive users of this resource but we want to
continue using the resource.
On-going, continuous research is necessary on these game birds.
It is the official provincial game bird, and it is right that Memorial
be the spearhead, said Mr. Moores.
Memorials Dr. Bill Montevecchi, a specialist in avian ecology and
conservation biology, was their choice. We had some money saved
up and wanted to use it the best way possible. We thought about a number
of options, including habitat protect. At the Birds 2000 conference, we
were really impressed with Dr. Montevecchis work, Mr. Anthony
Using the money from Partridge Forever along with funding from other sources,
Dr. Montevecchi intends to develop a long-term research project on partridge
as a popular game species. Our questions will concentrate on biology
and ecology, Dr. Montevecchi said. Key research issues relate
to ptarmigan population cycling, the role of predators in the cycle, if
and how ptarmigan disperse from prime areas, hunting and ATV pressures,
as well as what interactions there are, if any, between willow and rock
ptarmigans the two species in the province.
This is a lot of work but we are looking at a long-term project
that will involve many students, he continued. Ellen Jedrey,
a student from the University of New Hampshire, has begun a masters project
on ptarmigan in the biopsychology program. Darroch Whitaker, who earned
his M.Sc. in biopsychology here and is just finishing his PhD on ruffed
grouse at Virginia Tech, has applied for an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship
to help with this research.
Dr. Montevecchi stressed that hunting may not be the threat to the ptarmigan
population that some might assume.When you look at the total mortality,
hunters only kick in 10 or 15 per cent, he asserted. That
doesnt mean that its not significant. We do have to focus
on it, because human interaction with the bird is the only part of the
situation we may be able to control.
Besides the fact it will provide an exciting research opportunity for
him and his students, Dr. Montevecchi is enthused about the fact that
Memorial has the chance to cooperate with a local not-for-profit organization.
I think they are really incredible conservationists hunters
who are real conservationists, he said. They want to hunt
for ever. They want lots of birds and they are really willing to shoot
fewer birds, to hunt less they really want to conserve the birds.
They really have that perspective.
Eventually we will have a memorandum of agreement between Memorial,
Partridge Forever, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Division,
so that everybody would have a role in guiding the research, he
Hopefully then, at the end of the day, all Newfoundlanders will be able
to have their partridge, and eat it too.
Students Promoting Awareness about Research Knowledge (SPARK) is an
innovative research communications program launched at Memorial in 1999.
The first SPARK program was started at the University of Guelph and the
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council helped to establish
the program at Memorial. The SPARK Program continues at MUN with the support
of the Faculties of Science, Medicine and the Office of the Vice-President
Research and International Relations.