Missouri's quail population shrinking.

spectr17

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Tuesday, October 23, 2001.

Jeff City News Tribune

Missouri's quail population shrinking.

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) -- The number of quail in the state is at an all-time low and many observers say they expect the problem to worsen in the future.

"I can see a day when there won't be quail hunting in southern Missouri," said Lynn Oxendine of Joplin, who has been hunting quail for 30 years.

During the first two weeks of August, Missouri Department of Conservation agents in each county travel a fixed 30-mile route at 20 mph, recording the number of bobwhites they see.

The 2001 quail index -- the average number of all quail along the routes -- dropped to 3.46 this year, which is 31 percent below the 2000 count of 5. It also is 61 percent below the long-term average of 8.9 quail during the years 1983-2000.

The mean statewide brood count -- or number of baby chicks -- was 0.25, or 26 percent lower than last year's index of 0.34 and 58 percent below the long-term average of 0.60.

The surveys are not scientific, but the collapse they indicate is mirrored by the experiences of landowners and hunters.

"Things are falling apart for quail," said Thomas Dailey, a wildlife research biologist with the Department of Conservation.

Jasper County is an example of worst-case situations, Dailey said.

Fifteen years ago, quail counts were finding as many as 100 birds along the designated route in Jasper County, but that number has now fallen into the teens.

As a consequence, he said, the number of quail hunters in Missouri has dropped by more than half over the past 15 years.

Scientists and hunters say there are many reasons for the sharp decline, but the biggest problem is widespread poor habitat, Dailey said.

"Habitat is the key," added Randy Haas, a private land conservationist with the state. "Most of everything that has happened to them has to do with habitat."

Habitat problems have been caused by such things as overgrazed pastures, overly thick stands of grass in old fields, removal of cover in crop fields and along roadsides and replacement of native grasses with fescue.

"There is no food value at all in fescue for wildlife," said Oxendine, owner of Danels Feed and Farm Supplies in Joplin. "It doesn't make good nesting places because normally it is pastured down pretty hard."

Some farmers are pushing their fields to the edge, said Haas, doing away with fence rows, hedge rows and other transition zones that provided quail habitat.

"There are thousands of miles of fence rows that have been taken out over the last 30 or 40 years," Oxendine said. "It's part of the total farm economy.

"I understand the farm economy. I understand the bird population, and the two are not heading in mutual directions."

Encroaching development also has aggravated the problems. St. Charles County, for example, was dropped from the statewide survey this year because increased traffic made the traditional 30-mile route unsafe to travel at 20 mph.

The cold weather last winter and the rainfall in late May and June, which is the peak nesting period for quail, also hurt.

Another change has been the increase in predators, especially since fur trapping has declined.

"We've got bobcats now that we didn't have 25 years ago," Oxendine said.

Quail populations are declining across the nation. In response, state agencies and private organizations, such as Quail Unlimited, are working with landowners to increase habitat.

Department of Conservation experts help landowners develop food plots, restore shrubby thickets and native grasses, and institute practices such as discing and periodic burning.

The state also occasionally makes money available for landowners who agree to leave strips of grain along the edges of their fields to provide food and cover for quail.
 



spectr17

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Tuesday, October 23, 2001.

Jeff City News Tribune

Missouri's quail population shrinking.

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) -- The number of quail in the state is at an all-time low and many observers say they expect the problem to worsen in the future.

"I can see a day when there won't be quail hunting in southern Missouri," said Lynn Oxendine of Joplin, who has been hunting quail for 30 years.

During the first two weeks of August, Missouri Department of Conservation agents in each county travel a fixed 30-mile route at 20 mph, recording the number of bobwhites they see.

The 2001 quail index -- the average number of all quail along the routes -- dropped to 3.46 this year, which is 31 percent below the 2000 count of 5. It also is 61 percent below the long-term average of 8.9 quail during the years 1983-2000.

The mean statewide brood count -- or number of baby chicks -- was 0.25, or 26 percent lower than last year's index of 0.34 and 58 percent below the long-term average of 0.60.

The surveys are not scientific, but the collapse they indicate is mirrored by the experiences of landowners and hunters.

"Things are falling apart for quail," said Thomas Dailey, a wildlife research biologist with the Department of Conservation.

Jasper County is an example of worst-case situations, Dailey said.

Fifteen years ago, quail counts were finding as many as 100 birds along the designated route in Jasper County, but that number has now fallen into the teens.

As a consequence, he said, the number of quail hunters in Missouri has dropped by more than half over the past 15 years.

Scientists and hunters say there are many reasons for the sharp decline, but the biggest problem is widespread poor habitat, Dailey said.

"Habitat is the key," added Randy Haas, a private land conservationist with the state. "Most of everything that has happened to them has to do with habitat."

Habitat problems have been caused by such things as overgrazed pastures, overly thick stands of grass in old fields, removal of cover in crop fields and along roadsides and replacement of native grasses with fescue.

"There is no food value at all in fescue for wildlife," said Oxendine, owner of Danels Feed and Farm Supplies in Joplin. "It doesn't make good nesting places because normally it is pastured down pretty hard."

Some farmers are pushing their fields to the edge, said Haas, doing away with fence rows, hedge rows and other transition zones that provided quail habitat.

"There are thousands of miles of fence rows that have been taken out over the last 30 or 40 years," Oxendine said. "It's part of the total farm economy.

"I understand the farm economy. I understand the bird population, and the two are not heading in mutual directions."

Encroaching development also has aggravated the problems. St. Charles County, for example, was dropped from the statewide survey this year because increased traffic made the traditional 30-mile route unsafe to travel at 20 mph.

The cold weather last winter and the rainfall in late May and June, which is the peak nesting period for quail, also hurt.

Another change has been the increase in predators, especially since fur trapping has declined.

"We've got bobcats now that we didn't have 25 years ago," Oxendine said.

Quail populations are declining across the nation. In response, state agencies and private organizations, such as Quail Unlimited, are working with landowners to increase habitat.

Department of Conservation experts help landowners develop food plots, restore shrubby thickets and native grasses, and institute practices such as discing and periodic burning.

The state also occasionally makes money available for landowners who agree to leave strips of grain along the edges of their fields to provide food and cover for quail.
 

coveys4ever

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If I am not mistaken, MDC has eliminated the program that paid farmers for leaving the 10' strip of crop next to habitat and cover and have replaced it with some type of 3 acre set aside for 2 years.  The farmer gets $150 per acre per year.  I personally preferred the 10' strip of crop for quail instead of the "concentrated" 3 acre plot.
 


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