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Is There a Place For Predator Control in Quail Management


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Jim Vander

Im no quail expert but I have witnessed huge decrease in my 30 years in one spot. Quail such as they exist at all locally are unhuntable. The habitat they employed when I first moved here is now vinyl or farmed ditch to ditch. I have no doubt outdoor cats raise heck with them as well as other predators. How that balances against loss of habitat I am not qualified to say, but anecdotally if you put all the fish from a lake in one cove I can probably catch most of them. I am saddened by their loss, we had a such a good thing going we only shot the covey rise and later in season did not even do that just let the dogs work them.  Conversely deer are thriving. 

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4setters

BrentD, 

 

"Meanwhile, you might consider that quail have been increasing lately in Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa which are no slouches when it comes to coyote densities. "

 

Say what?  Quail are increasing?  A couple of good years of hatch and you say they are increasing?  In Iowa, the 2020 August Roadside Survey shows in Table 4 a general decline in quail numbers from 1965 to the present.  Sure, quail indices were up for four years in a row, with indices between 1 and 2 from 2015 to 2018, but the index was between 2-3 from 1965-1980.  It also ran below 1 for a 20 year period, 1995-2014.  And it has fallen back to below 1 for the last two year.  Four years of better reproduction is not grounds for saying that quail are increasing in Iowa--we all know that quail reproduction can vary dramatically due to numerous factors.   Fifty-five years of data will show whether quail are increasing.  Or give me ten years of upward indices, and I'll say they are increasing.

 

Nebraska?  Table 4 of the 2020 Rural Mail Carrier Survey shows a downward trend in quail indices from 1979-2020.  The mean indices from 2000-2019 are down 23% statewide.  These data show that the Republican River area is close to holding its own through the 40+ years of the survey, while the SE region has fallen dramatically.  And like Iowa, Texas, and Kansas, a spike in indices occurred for a couple of years back in 2016-2017 or so, but indices have been poor the last two years.

 

What about the 2020 whistle count survey in NE?  A general decline from 1965 to 2020 statewide--see Fig. 2.  Yes, there was an uptick in 2017-2018, but again the index fell sharply the last two years.  In general these two NE surveys complement each other, data wise, as both show a very short recent increase in indices but a very long decline in the same.     

 

Kansas?  One out of three ain't bad.  The 2020 KS Bobwhite Whistle County shows in Fig. 2 that indices for whistling males has risen slightly from 2000 to 2019 statewide, and quail have apparently expanded their range somewhat in the northwest.  However, these data are like Iowa, they are influenced by four years of uptick in spring quail indices from 2015-2018.  Indices have dropped the past two years statewide.  When compared to older historic KS quail trends (Breeding Bird Survey and others), quail indices show a long term, several decade decline.  So again, do you want to say quail are increasing based on 2-4 good years (depending on the state) of reproduction/survival/whatever that results in an uptick in various quail indices for a few years?  Perhaps, in this case, but the jury is still out.

 

Just a comment on another statement:  "Choosing to ignore or deny science. . . ."  These are only two alternatives to this scenario, and I deny both.  Another scenario is "Choosing to only read or cite scientific results one agrees with."   Another is "Choosing to apply the results of a short term scientific study on a specific area to all areas and all other years, despite know differences in study sites, attendant species, and fluctuations in nature."  Another is "bias based on pre-conceived ideas or outside influences."  And there are others.  You know and I know that there are hundreds of scientific papers and observations on coyotes in the literature and they don't all agree and they never will, due to the complexities of nature.  I've lived my whole life and career around science, and I can assert that I've rarely heard two scientists agree on anything. 

 

I try to stay objective, but I continue to believe that coyotes (a non-historical species in AR) haven't benefitted any birds or mammals that I'm aware of in this state.  If I'm shown evidence, I'll change my beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Predator control is not only challenging to prove its effectiveness, but about as difficult to implement.  I do it some, but it's a modest seasonal effort.  My rational is that some is better than none...  😕

A few years ago Tall Timbers did what to date has been called "the definitive study" on the issue which took 10 years to complete. Among other things, they radio tagged quail to determine what all was killing them and they monitored nests to see what was eating eggs.  It was interesting to see some of their findings.  They learned many of the historically suspected egg eaters were getting bad raps (coyotes, cotton rats, and foxes) while others that had been getting a pass were problematic (armadillos and bobcats).  They quickly saw that predator management has to be pretty intense and consistent to have any impact as the predators numbers can rebound quickly; also learned that taking lots of some species opened the doors for others (such as snakes). 

They ultimately did see improvements in quail numbers in areas with a lower predator index, if only by reducing the size of the down cycles in poor hatch years, or helping the numbers rebound better during good ones.

As much as anything, they learned that improving habitat and increasing the alterative food sources for predators was very much a winning formula.  Feeding quail year round, which also helps other species such as cotton rats, helps keep quail from always being the day's Blue Plate Special.  Of course improved habitat, especially for during those tough winter months when hawks are migrating through, is a no brainer. 

Predator management can be a good thing if done on the proper scale, but should only be one of the many tools that comprise the effort to give these little birds their best chance. 

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Mike Connally

20 or so years ago Virginia ran a quail nesting success study. They recorded a whopping 90% nesting failure rate. 
Mammalian predators were the biggest culprits with black snakes also taking their share.  Hawks and owls took a huge toll on incubating parents, and  then they ate most of the chicks. 

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SelbyLowndes

The original question was whether predator control has ANY place is Bobwhite management.  Of course it does.  If you want a bigger share of whatever quail are there, reduce the predator factor and you'll have the bigger share. 

 

Several have questioned the ethics of that idea, and I have to agree that in the total scheme of conservation predator and prey are of equal value. But if I want more of the birds on my place to survive so I can shoot them, then I know how; poison the nest predators and shoot the hawks. 

 

Ask any commercial quail shooting operator why all the birds he releases that aren't shot are not still around the next week, and he'll tell you exactly where his inventory went...SelbyLowndes

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SelbyLowndes

All this talk of quail has got me hungry.  I just remembered a jar of hard boiled pickled quail eggs I have in the refrigerator.  I believe I'll stab a couple with a toothpick and have a snack...SelbyLowndes

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