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Exert from the Eighth Annual Report of the NY Conservation Commission – 1918

“A very serious shortage in ruffed grouse has been reported throughout the State for the last two years, causing the Commission to make a very careful and comprehensive investigation of the entire grouse situation. The results of this investigation were published in a special bulletin. The study showed that the grouse shortage was caused primarily by natural causes. Among these may be mentioned a succession of very cold, wet nesting seasons, resulting in a tremendous mortality among young birds. There was also a great influx of predatory birds from the north, caused by the periodic shortage of varying hare or snow-shoe rabbits. This periodic rabbit shortage comes in cycles of from seven to ten years. Inasmuch as the predatory birds of the north, chiefly the goshawk and great horned owl, subsist mainly upon the rabbits, the shortage of rabbits in the north has caused the birds to migrate southward in search of food. They find the grouse an easy prey. The great horned owl or goshawk will mark down a convoy of grouse and stay in the immediate locality of that covey, taking off bird after bird until he has completely exterminated it.

The shortage of snow-shoe rabbits in the Adirondaclks, which occurs at the same time that it does in the far north, also causes the predatory animals that region, such as the foxes, to turn to the grouse as the most available food. it is possible, also, that is causes some of the foxes of the deep woods to spread southward in search of food. This would help to explain the greatly increased number of foxes in the more settled sections, though it is possible also that a decrease in the hunting and trapping of foxes has been partly responsible for their greater numbers.

The Common found that the shortage in grouse existed in the remote sections of the Adirondacks, where the birds are not hunted at all. It was accordingly felt that the scarcity was due more to predatory animals and to unfavorable nesting seasons than to the hunters themselves. In fact, it was felt that hunting was one if the minor factors in the decrease of the birds.

The last nesting season was very much more favorable than the three that proceeded it, and reports of game protectors from all over the State show that considerable numbers of young birds were reared.

The Commission was accordingly guided by all of these facts in acting upon petitions for additional protection. An order was issued shortening the grouse season to the month of October alone in the State at large, and to the single month of November on Long Island, and cutting the bag limit to 2 in a day and 10 in the season. This permits some hunting and enables sportsmen to keep their dogs in training. Inasmuch as the leaves are on the trees during October, so that hunters cannot kill very many birds, it also very materially increases the protection given to the grouse, and allows the larger proportion of them to be left for a breeding stock next spring. The grouse situation is being very carefully watched by the Commission, and any action necessary will be taken, as provided by the law.”

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