|Feathered Game of the Northeast. Walter Herbert Rich,|
New York: T.Y. Crowell & Co, 1907
Heath Hen: Early Signs of TroubleDuring colonial times, Heath Hens (Tympanuchus cupido cupido) flourished among the heathland barrens of coastal North America from Maine to Virginia. Tasty and easy to kill, they were popular among early settler, and their numbers quickly declined from overhunting, habitat loss, and disease.
In 1791, the New York State legislature introduced a bill calling for the preservation of Heath Hens and other game, but it couldn't be enforced. After the birds disappeared from the mainland, a Heath Hen sanctuary was established on Martha's Vineyard in 1908. The sanctuary was home to the entire Heath Hen population--50 birds in all. By 1915, they numbered 2,000. But when a fire destroyed the sanctuary's habitat in 1916, their numbers dwindled. The last one died in 1932.
Extinctions are often most visible to us when they affect a highly visible species in our communities, especially if there are repercussions for our food sources or income. But extinctions can also have far-reaching impacts that may not be as immediately visible.
Understanding Biodiversity and Supporting Research
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