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Stop Zombie Quail!

Published on: Jan. 29, 2009

the weather and a good hatch.

These pockets of good habitat range in size from one or two farms to large private land Quail Focus Areas where several landowners in a defined geography are working to restore habitat for bobwhite quail. With help from conservation partners and landowners, Department biologists have identified 34 private land Quail Focus Areas in Missouri. Most focus areas are 30,000 to 40,000 acres in size, but some are even larger because of widespread landowner interest. The purpose of Quail Focus Areas is to work with private landowners to improve habitat conditions in these targeted landscapes. Checkout out the Covey Headquarter Newsletter for details on Quail Focus Areas. We are highlighting two focus areas in each issue.

Does targeting habitat work make a difference? You bet. Last year Department biologists conducted fall whistle counts on farms located in two Quail Focus Areas and on farms outside the focus area. Within these focus areas landowners have established and maintained a considerable amount of habitat. Outside the focus area there's been some habitat work, but the work isn't as concentrated as in the focus area. To no surprise we found quail densities twice as high inside the focus area compared to farms outside the focus area. Concentrated habitat work makes a difference! Other good examples of concentrated habitat work have occurred in at least two Missouri counties. I hope you have heard about Cass and Scott counties. These two counties were the first counties in the nation to achieve habitat goals identified in the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. Since 2002, landowners in these counties have restored thousands of acres of habitat for bobwhites. Landowners in Scott County have restored more than 7,000 acres of habitat, while in Cass County more than 15,000 acres have been created since 2002!

image of quail huntersThink all that habitat work has made a difference? You bet. Back in December, a southeast Missouri quail hunter found seven coveys while hunting in Scott County. Not too bad if you ask me. We've been receiving several good stories from Scott County for the past three years.

We heard similar stories from Cass County before the 2007 and 2008 ice storms and summer floods. Cass County has been a bulllseye for bad weather. For example, on June 30, 2007, most of Cass County received 20 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. I don't have to tell you what that did to the quail. I recently talked with Andy Carmack, private land conservationist in Cass County, and it sounds like bird numbers are starting to recover. On some farms bird numbers have already recovered to 2006 levels.

The benefit of having large areas of suitable habitat, like in Cass and Scott counties, is quail are more likely to rebound from devastating weather events. Landowners outside of focus areas shouldn't be discouraged. You can still provide excellent quail habitat and still have excellent results. Many of the success stories we receive come from Missouri landowners who are from isolated patches of good habitat. Our hopes are more people will become interested and these small patches will grow into large ones. In the meantime, Department staff are going to concentrate their efforts on landowners in the 34 Quail Focus Areas. Landowners outside of focus areas need not worry, Department staff will be there to help you too.

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