Janesville resident and Tallgrass Restoration employee Cameron Cass may be 25, but he is already thinking about his retirement. His dream, he said, is to retire on an acreage he can establish as a prairie habitat and conservation installation, where one day the ground will be covered in pre-settlement plants, and native animal species and even bison can roam and graze. His job as a crew lead installing prairies with Tallgrass is giving him a perfect education, he said.
On Friday, Sept. 4, Cass and fellow Tallgrass employees gathered in the 250-acre prairie surrounding Tallgrass' Milton office as Cass released nearly 90 6- and 8-week old bobwhite quail chicks. This is the second year he has raised the birds from day-old chicks and released them, he said. Last year, he released about 20.
He hopes to release chicks annually until the prairie is established with a healthy base of breeding quails and foraging groups, called coveys, he said. While the birds are young when they are released, Cass said they have been raised on feeds including natural seeds so they know what to look for in the wild, and they also have natural instincts for survival. When predators near, he said, they spread out and hide, and when the danger is gone, they call to one another until they are reassembled in a group. Birds of prey, coyotes and foxes are their most prevalent predators, Cass said.
In the months after a release, Cass said, he keeps an ear open, listening for the calls. As the frequency of calls increases, he'll know the prairie is becoming home to a self-sustaining quail population, he said.
Following are pictures from Friday's release.