Quail Maybe Making a Comeback In OklahomaFri, 20 Jun 2014 09:07:49 CDT
There has been plenty of whistling about the possibility of a much-needed boost to the bobwhite population in Oklahoma.
For decades, the state quail population has been drastically decreasing. While the 750,000 to 1 million population estimate from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) seems like a large number, it is nothing compared to the estimated 7 million birds approximately 20 years ago.
Many factors have attributed to the decline.
“It’s generally thought the decline in the population is mostly due to habitat change over the years, such as eastern redcedar invasion and maturing of forests,” said Sam Fuhlendorf, endowed professor in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management. “They also fluctuate dramatically with weather variation. These are the two primary causes but other factors may be locally important too, such as hunting, disease and predation.”
The lack of rain Oklahoma has experienced throughout recent years, coupled with some very high summer temperatures, left quail stuck in a pattern of low reproduction.
“The recent rain has made a big difference. It is moderating temperatures, which is important for quail,” said Dwayne Elmore, OSU Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. “It also has provided for more biomass in forbs and grasses and will yield moresoft mast for wildlife.”
The rain and mild temperatures have allowed for the growth of ground cover, which is used by quail to nest. A few consecutive good nesting seasons is critical to seeing more birds when hunting season rolls around this November.
“Despite the favorable weather, it takes more than one year to rebound. Fortunately, 2013 was a good nesting year,” Elmore said. “If 2014 to be continues mild and moist, bobwhite hunting should improve.”
Where habitat is suitable, bobwhite will respond. In areas where habitat is not suitable, weather is irrelevant until the plant composition and structure is modified.
“In eastern Oklahoma, this typically entails heavily thinning and burning forests and converting introduced grasses to native grass and shrub communities,” Elmore said. “In central and western Oklahoma, eastern redcedar removal is often needed.”
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