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April 2, 2010

Landowners learn quail habitat improvement techniques at recent seminar

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 S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Program and other partners, have been held for the past 23 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 11-12, co-sponsored by the South Carolina Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
"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 Billy Dukes, DNR Small Game Program Supervisor. "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 DNR, the S.C. Forestry Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Tall Timbers Research Station 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, including South Carolina. "Management-oriented research conducted in South Carolina by Tall Timbers reinforces the message that habitat management is the key to increasing quail numbers across the range of the species," Dukes said.
Plans are underway for the 24th annual wild quail management seminars in 2011. 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. 

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