Why We Don't Stock Quail
were leg banded, 14 percent wing banded, 5 percent unmarked and presumed to be wild reared. Relative to the total number of birds released, hunter bag returns were 0.80 percent for the wing-tagged chicks and 7.5 percent for the leg-banded adults. Based on subjective ratings, the summer released wing-tagged chicks exhibited flight behavior exceeding that of fall-released leg-banded adults and similar to that of wild reared birds. Hunter bag return rates were low for both systems. The cost per released bird returned to hunter bag was $74.53 and $42 for the Surrogate Propagation™ system and dump-release, respectively.
In 2009, Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch began a study to determine post-release survival of Surrogated bobwhites at two sites in Texas (Palo Pinto County and Clay County). We radio-tagged and leg banded approximately 80 5-week-old chicks at the Palo Pinto site and approximately 40 chicks at the Clay County site. Most of the tagged birds were dead or lost by the second week post release. In 2010, we tagged 27 birds at a third site in Palo Pinto County, and found similar results, that being extremely high mortality of tagged birds within two weeks post-release. Visual observations of bobwhites without transmitters suggest that similar mortality was occurring. Based on our results to date, landowners utilizing Surrogators™ to enhance the existing bobwhite population or re-establishing populations in unoccupied ranges should expect poor survival and low success in achieving their goals.
Nebraska Pheasant Study
Nebraska (2008). The Surrogator™ captive propagation system is purported to increase populations of northern bobwhite and ring-necked pheasants. The units provide food, water, heat and shelter for chicks until they are released. Releasing pheasant chicks at four to five weeks and limiting contact with humans while they are in the Surrogator™ unit is purported to allow the chicks to retain the survival instincts of wild birds. We evaluated the efficacy of the Surrogator™ system by evaluating the survival and return-to-bag of pheasant chicks raised in the units placed on two shooting preserves and two public wildlife areas. Survival from release until the start of the pheasant hunting season was low (12 percent) and annual survival was less than 1 percent. Of the 170 pheasant chicks placed in the unit at the beginning of the study, six (3.5 percent) were returned to bag. Cost/pheasant $36.21 ($3.50 without Surrogator™ Cost/pheasant returned to bag=$331.98 ($32.14 without Surrogator™). (NE Game & Parks Special Report).
Kentucky (2007-2009). Study conducted by the Kentucky Department of Wildlife. In 2007, 294 birds were released using the Surrogate Propagation™ system at a research farm. The farm was hunted hard during the 2008-2009 season, with no birds flushed or harvested. In 2009, KDW released 277 birds at the same site. Covey call counts were conducted on the property during October,with one covey detected. In mid-November, five hunters using five dogs hunted two hours with no birds flushed or harvested. At a second release site where no hunting was allowed, no birds were detected during October covey call counts, flush counts, or in call back pens.
These studies are just a few of the examples of trying to use released birds to increase the bobwhite populations on an area. Reintroduction of wild turkeys is often heralded as a modern wildlife success story. Adult turkeys have a much higher survival rate that quail, and turkeys were released into suitable, but unoccupied habitat. Unfortunately for quail, most suitable habitat in Missouri is occupied. If the habitat is incapable of supporting wild bobwhite, the chance of released birds surviving is minimal. Releasing pen-raised birds onto private property, for the purposes of dog training, is allowed by permit.