Thursday, April 6, 2017

Arkansas joins states to bring back quail

By Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Arkansans may remember the familiar whoosh of northern bobwhite coveys flushed from fields. That experience is driving some, including Fred Brown, to restore quail across the state so younger generations can feel the thrill.

Brown's view from his Corning home in the northeast corner of the state illustrates the quail's demise.

"I can look out and I can't see the fence on the far end, it seems like it goes on forever," said Brown, who is chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission panel of commissioners. Where once were small farms separated by weedy fence rows -- and maybe an untended plot with overgrowth -- is a precision-leveled field.

Not exactly perfect quail habitat, which greatly diminished during the latter half of the 20th Century. Ninety percent of Arkansas is privately owned and certainly won't be returning to the small farms and land use that dominated before the 1970s, Jim Harris points out in "The Quest for Quail" in the March-April issue of Arkansas Wildlife magazine.

Several neighboring states have shown that quail habitat can be restored.

In 2002, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative began, unifying 25 state fish and wildlife agencies to restore quail habitat and wild populations of the bird.

"Our division made it a priority to ramp up our quail restoration effort in line with the initiative," said Brad Carner, chief of the Game and Fish wildlife management division. "What I'd say is different now from then: It was simply a wildlife division priority, and it became difficult as the years passed for us to maintain the emphasis that it needed, both from a manpower and a funding standpoint."

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