Texas Hunters Asked to Monitor Local Quail Population

And in other quail-related news, as part of its ongoing research project into bobwhite quail numbers, the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is asking hunters to be on the lookout for any sick, dying or dead quail they may come across while hunting (and by sick, dying or dead quail, that means by means other than shotgun blast...)

The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (RPQRR) is asking quail hunters to keep their eyes open for any "weird quail" that may offer clues as to what's going on with Texas' quail population. "We're asking hunters to report any observations of strange-acting quail, or ideally any recent carcasses of sick or dead quail" says Dr. Dale Rollins, RPQRR's director. "Over the past two weeks, several specimens have been submitted, and these samples may indeed be 'witnesses to the crime', so we're acutely interested in having such birds examined."

_
Texas quail hunters are sadly aware of the status of their favorite quarry--the bobwhite population is at a record low in the popular Rolling Plains of northwest Texas. While many experts believe weather and habitat change have caused the decline, Rollins says the RPQRR is looking at some less familiar hypotheses, and disease is in their crosshairs.

Last May, the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch announced its comprehensive disease research effort "Operation Idiopathic Decline." The aim of OID is to conduct a comprehensive study of diseases and parasites as potential factors involved in quail decline. Subsequently, RPQRR funded a total of eight research projects to the tune of just over $2 million. Researchers from Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Texas A&M-Kingsville, plus the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, joined hands in a concerted effort to sample quail from across west Texas and western Oklahoma.

To date, the OID research team has tested nearly 700 bobwhites from a total of 21 sites in Texas and 10 sites in Oklahoma. Blood and tissue samples were obtained from all those birds, and 189 quail were sacrificed for additional examination. The results of these tests are pending and should be available by mid-March.

Rollins said few hunters are afield this season because of low quail numbers. "We encourage hunters and their bird dogs to be afield as our 'scouts' but shoot more with a camera than a shotgun. We need as many eyes afield as possible to monitor local quail populations."

Hunters who encounter sick quail are asked to contact Dr. Rollins at (325) 650-0311, or e-mail him at d-rollins@tamu.edu._