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HECKEL, J.-O. (2021)

Das Westliche Haselhuhn - Abgesang auf einen Endemiten des westlichen Europa.

ZGAP-Mitteilungen 2021-1: 35-39.

Summary:

The Western hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia rhenana) is morphologically, genetically and ecologically distinct. In most areas of its original distribution range it also differs with regard to its habitat preference from all other subspecies of hazel grouse worldwide. About 100 years ago the taxon was still widely distributed and locally common in low mountain ranges across western Central Europe. In recent times small numbers remained only in the southern Vosges Mountains. During intensive searches in early 2020 only evidence of one single individual could be found. Coupled with numerous further unsuccessful or only partly successful searches in the southern Vosges in recent years this is clear evidence that the Western hazel grouse has already become functionally extinct. Habitat loss and high densities of ungulates and mesopredators appear to be the main causes in its last stronghold. Only a combination of in situ- and ex situ-measures could have saved this taxon. However, unfortunately, by now it is most probably even too late for the establishment of a conservation breeding program as due to the extremely low number of Western hazel grouse left. Furthermore, respective requests to the French authorities for the legal collection of eggs for artificial breeding of a founder population was negatively decided upon. Therefore, in conclusion, Western hazel grouse seems doomed to extirpation in the southern Vosges Mountains and consequently also globally.

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