Saving the Bobwhite

 Among the many efforts to fight back against the startling, rapid decline of the bobwhite quail across its range in the US, it seems the battle is being hardest fought in Texas. That reflects the passion of Texas quail hunters, many of whom departed the now-defunct Quail Unlimited en masse in late 2009 and founded Quail Coalition. And it certainly reflects the tremendous financial wherewithal and drive of the affluent chapters, including members of Park Cities Quail, which has helped underwrite a rapid response effort through the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch and in university labs.

 If indeed “everything’s bigger in Texas,” the bobwhite decline fell unfortunately true to the rule. Despite having some of the country’s best remaining habitat and good rainfall, 2010 brought mysteriously poor bird counts. In this excellent short video, Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation President Rick Snipes says, “We had something going on with our bird populations that was unexplainable by the standard factors of weather and habitat.”

 Four years into Operation Idiopathic Decline, a $3.8 million groundbreaking study of the effects of environmental contaminants, disease and parasites on the bobwhites of the Rolling Plains region, the weight of the evidence implicates a pandemic of parasites in both the eyes and intestinal tracts of quail. Now researchers are working toward a cure in the form of medicated grit and are appealing for direct donations “to finish what we started.”

 “I’ve been very encouraged,” Snipes says in the video. “What we’ve found is that the birds take readily to the feed, and the results we’ve seen are extraordinarily promising.”

 To learn more about how you can help support the research, visit the RPQRR website: www.quailresearch.org.

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Ed Carroll

Ed Carroll is Shooting Sportsman's Associate Editor.

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