Town creating new army of quail to combat ticks

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Ranger Eric Powers and town officials released quail along the North Hempstead Harbor Trail. (Photo courtesy of the Town of North Hempstead)
Ranger Eric Powers and town officials released quail along the North Hempstead Harbor Trail. (Photo courtesy of the Town of North Hempstead)

Release the quail!

The Town of North Hempstead is doubling down on its battle to fight ticks, officials announced on Monday, with plans to hatch up to 60 northern bobwhite quail to send into wooded areas.

Carole Trottere, the town spokeswoman, said the town released a smaller number of quail last year – between 23 and 28 – on 200 acres of land across from the North Hempstead Beach Park and across from the Hempstead Harbor Trail.

And the first one hatched on Tuesday afternoon.

“Usually when one goes, they all come in succession really fast,” Trottere said.

About 60 quail eggs are currently stationed at the town’s television station at the “Yes We Can” Community Center, with their hatching being live streamed online.

After about two weeks in the studio, the new platoon of quail chicks will join other chicks to mature, before being sent out to hunt down ticks.

“Lyme disease is a very serious condition caused by deer ticks, which are prevalent in wooded areas and grasslands all over Long Island,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “The Town is constantly on the lookout for natural methods we can use to control disease-causing pests that do not involve using toxic chemicals.”

Trottere said officials have gotten several emails from people saying they saw quail, meaning the new tick hunters could be joining veteran ones.

Biologist Eric Powers, who hosts North Hempstead’s TV series “Off the Trail,” designed the quail program and helped make North Hempstead the first municipality to participate. Powers has also worked with schools across Long Island to set up incubators and raise quail.

In a news release, Powers cautioned the public to keep cats inside to protect the quail.

“Cats take a massive toll on our ground-dwelling wildlife, such as bobwhite quail, which turns out to be our front line of defense against ticks,” Powers said. “So the biggest help anyone can do is keep your cats inside.”

The quail cam can be found online at http://www.northhempsteadny.gov/quailcam.

Trottere said the town plans to do a survey this summer to get a “before and after” picture of how many ticks there are.

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