HAMPTON COUNTY — Quail populations have declined significantly in South Carolina and across the Southeast, but an ongoing project of the state natural resources agency may help stabilize numbers of the bird often referred to as the “Prince of Gamebirds.”
Wild quail management seminars, conducted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Program and other partners, have been held for the past 26 years at the Webb Wildlife Center in Hampton County. These seminars have provided a hands-on experience at improving habitat for bobwhite quail for more than 1385 men and women. The most recent seminar was held March 6-7, 2014.
“Modern agricultural and forestry practices have significantly changed the way we use the land and have had significant impacts on both the quality and quantity of habitat for bobwhite quail,” said Willie Simmons, DNR Small Game Program Supervisor. “So it is essential that we provide accurate information to landowners and land managers on how to manage their lands to improve habitat for quail.”
Biologists offer several theories for the decline of bobwhite populations throughout the Southeast, which the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate as high as 4 percent annually. Among these theories are:
— Consolidation of many small farms into larger “clean” farms and the resulting loss of “edge” habitat such as field borders between field and forest
— Increased use of agricultural pesticides/herbicides
— Forestry practices that emphasize single species plantations of fast-growing pines
— Increased use of introduced pasture grasses rather than native warm season grasses
— Increased development and urbanization of rural land
— Increased populations of other wildlife species that prey upon quail or compete directly with quail for available foods
To help offset some of these limiting factors, DNR wildlife biologists teach participants how to create optimum, year around bobwhite quail habitat by using prescribed fire, discing to stimulate native quail foods, and establishing suitable nesting and brood rearing habitat.
During the seminars, speakers from DNR, the S.C. Forestry Commission, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service address topics such as the proper use of fire and beneficial forestry practices, federal cost-share assistance programs, and individual conservation programs.
Plans are underway for the 27th annual wild quail management seminars in 2015. The registration fee covers overnight accommodations, meals and seminar materials at the Webb Wildlife Center.
For more information, write SCDNR Small Game Program, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, call 803-734- 3609 or check the DNR website at www.dnr.sc.gov/education/quail.html for updates on the 2013 Quail Management Seminar.