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Ways to Help the Bobwhite Quail Using Fire, Herbicides and Longleaf Pine Plantings and Protecting the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Who’s Doing Something to Save the Bobwhite?

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Since 1950, the South has lost most of its quail population. At this rate, the cheerful sound of the native, wild bobwhite quail may soon vanish from the South’s landscape, which has changed drastically over the years. These changes have negatively impacted the bobwhite quail’s habitat. However, state and federal groups and private organizations have worked together to halt the decline of the quail, once the South’s favorite game bird. To find out more about what’s being done, I interviewed Stan Stewart, a wildlife biologist for the State of Alabama, who’s currently working on quail restoration and technical assistance.

The Troops to the Rescue:
In the mid-1960s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started surveying the breeding-bird populations, including quail, through various state departments of conservation and private cooperators. AsClick to enlarge Stan Stewart explains, “Quail numbers a decade ago were at the lowest levels they’ve ever been. We only have 20% of the quail then that we had 50-years-ago. The population 50-years-ago was only half of what it was 40-years-earlier.”

A program operating throughout the southeastern states, the Northern Bobwhite Quail Initiative, was formed by the Southeast Quail Study Group to develop a quail-restoration plan. This organization consists of a conglomerate of southeastern wildlife agencies and federal and private agencies concerned about quail restoration. This group has developed a plan to direct and coordinate efforts to restore quail populations. Originally, this organization planned to merely expand quail populations throughout the Southeast. That effort, however, has escalated, and today the group hopes to increase quail populations back to their 1980 levels.

“In 1980, the State of Alabama still had about 50,000 quail hunters, and these hunters were harvesting about 1- to 1-1/2-million quail per year,” Stewart reports. “Today, the State of Alabama has only about 10,000 quail Click to enlargehunters, who only are harvesting about 200,000 quail per year. We believe that a large number of these 200,000 birds aren’t wild quail, but rather pen-raised quail being released for hunters to hunt.”

The number of shooting preserves in the South has grown drastically over the past 50 years. Although these shooting preserves don’t increase the number of wild quail in the state, they do help to retain a good number of quail hunters. Today, a quail hunter can find and flush 10 to 20 coveys of quail in a day at shooting preserves, including Cameron’s Shooting Preserve in Panola, Ala., near Aliceville, where the Cameron family has preserved the tradition of hunting quail on horseback and from mule-drawn wagons; or at newer preserves like White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Ala. where hunters hunt from tractor-drawn wagons or on foot.

“Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has joined with the Southeast Quail Study Group in the Northern Bobwhite Quail Initiative and has created the Alabama Quail Council to enact the goals of the Initiative through federal grants that influence the way landowners plant trees and manage their lands,” Stewart reports. “The Conservation Research Program (CRP), the Click to enlargeEnvironmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program are available as incentives to private landowners to help restore quail and wildlife habitat. We’ve seen growing interest from private landowners to help restore quail habitat.”

According to Stewart, the growth of the quail population in the South looks dim unless there becomes a growing interest in raising longleaf pine. Today, a growing number of interested individuals across the South within the state have become committed to restoring the longleaf pine to its historical levels in the South. Longleaf pine management and quail management complement each other, but this effort will have to come from private landowners, not timber companies. “In the Shoal Creek District of the Talladega National Forest, including the Choccolocco WMA, efforts are being made to restore mountain longleaf pine habitat,” Stewart explains. “There has also been an initiative to restore longleaf pine habitat in other parts of the state. There have been good quail responses to this management designed to help the mountain longleaf pine. The study area is only about 2,000 acres, but the goal is to help restore 10,000 acres or more in the future. Other longleaf restoration areas include Oakmulgee WMA and the Conecuh National Forest. So, the U.S. Forest Service has made a major effort to restore longleaf pine to its natural habitat. If the burning regime necessary to restore the longleaf pine to these regions also improves quail habitat, then quail numbers should respond favorably, something that’s already happening in the Talladega National Forest. We need small area burns on a frequent basis for longleaf pine management to help quail populations. “To have a positive quail response, about 1,000 acres need to be linked together to manage quail. You can have positive quail response on smaller acreages, but you’re just creating an island of quail response. The best hope to save the bobwhite quail is for more forestlands in the lower three-fourths of the state to begin being produced and managed for longleaf pine.”

Tomorrow: To Help the Bobwhite, Help the Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Check back each day this week for more about "Ways to Help the Bobwhite Quail Using Fire, Herbicides and Longleaf Pine Plantings and Protecting the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker"

Day 1: How Burning Forests Can Help Quail
Day 2: How Using an Herbicide Can Help the Bobwhite
Day 3: Ways to Help the Landowner Have More Quail
Day 4: Who’s Doing Something to Save the Bobwhite?
Day 5: To Help the Bobwhite, Help the Red-cockaded Woodpecker

 

Entry 495, Day 4