Conservation Matters November 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Texas Tech experts monitor drought's effects on quail counts

QuailThree years into a five-year project aimed at stemming the decline of quail in Texas, researchers with a conservation alliance based at Texas Tech University are finding that last year's blistering drought didn't help that rescue effort.

"Even though we've seen improvement in this year's reproductive efforts, it's important to look at reality," said Dr. Brad DabbertQuail-Tech Alliance research project director and associate professor in Texas Tech's Department of Natural Resources Management. "We're coming off one of the worst droughts on record and we're seeing a corresponding reproductive failure. While environmental conditions improved during winter and spring, we can't expect populations to rebound in a single year."

Starting in 2009, Quail-Tech Alliance and Texas Tech designated a 38-county research area in west central and northwest Texas, an area that encompasses more than 22 million acres or roughly 10 times the size of Yellowstone National Park. Within each of the counties, one ranch is designated as an anchor ranch to serve as a field research or demonstration site.

Among the historic ranches on the list attempting to save the northern bobwhite quail, are Guthrie's 6666 Ranch and Pitchfork Ranch, Vernon's W. T. Waggoner Ranch, Collingsworth County's Mill Iron Ranch and Archer County's Circle A Ranch.

While the Lone Star state's historic drought inhibited reproduction over most of the Rolling Plains last summer—exasperating bird deaths over the winter—researchers are encouraged to see many birds in reproductive condition this nesting season.

"It's amazing what a little timely rain can do," Dabbert said. "We've had reports of broods in many areas of the Rolling Plains."

Read the full Texas Tech Today article for more information.

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