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March 31, 2008

Landowners learned techniques of improving quail habitat

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, sponsored by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and S.C. State Committee of Quail Unlimited, have been held for the past 21 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 1200 men and women. The most recent seminars were held March 6-8, 2008.

"Modern agricultural and forestry practices have significantly changed the way we use the land and has had an impact on suitable habitat for bobwhite quail," said Judy Barnes, DNR small game biologist. "So it is essential that we provide accurate information to landowners and land managers regarding the proper methods of habitat management for quail."

"Participants in the two seminars gain a greater understanding of the factors affecting quail populations throughout our region. Our goal is to improve the knowledge of quail biology and habitat improvement for each person attending the seminar."

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:

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 the S.C. Forestry Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Quail Unlimited address topics such as the proper use of fire and beneficial forestry practices, federal cost-share assistance programs, and individual conservation programs.

Jerald Sholar, Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, reported on current research being conducted in the southeast. "The participants really enjoy hearing about the results of current research and this information reinforces the management practices we recommend," Barnes said.
Door prizes donated by Quail Unlimited, including beautiful wooden boxes with gun cleaning kits, knives, and hats, are awarded at the conclusion of each seminar.

Plans are underway for the 22nd annual wild quail management seminars in 2009. The registration fee covers overnight accommodations, meals and seminar materials at the Webb Wildlife Center. For more information, write Small Game Project, DNR, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, call (803) 734 4306 or barnesj@sc.dnr.gov.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.


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