Missouri quail populations have dropped 80% in the last 50-60 years

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LA RUSSEL, Mo. — The state of Missouri used to be known for its large quail population, until a few decades ago.

What is the Missouri Department of Conservation doing to counteract this issue?

Conservationists are working on rehabilitating the quail habitat and training landowners on how they can implement these practices.

Frank Loncarich, MDC Wildlife Management Biologist, said, “Since the 60’s and 70’s, our Quail population has dropped over 80%.”

Bobwhite quail were once a popular species to hunt in Missouri.

From 1940 to 1960, hunters killed two million a year.

But now, quail are at the lowest population in history.

Habitat change is detriment to quail livelihood, and that’s why the population declined drastically within 60 years.

“We went from a landscape that was broken up into small farms. They had a lots of native grasses. There were lots of weedy patches and now our management on private lands is very very intensive.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation completed a seven year study on quail and their habitats.

Biologists radio collared 1,500 birds and monitored how well they fared in different landscapes.

Research showed quail were able to live longer and reproduce in native grasslands and plum thickets, in comparison to tall tress.

“A lot of our landscape has grown up into tall trees, whether it’s forested landscapes that were once open and now trees or its shrubby fence rows that are now tall fence rows. These tall trees are actually perches for predators like Red Tailed Hawks.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends using more native grasses in farming operations if possible.

They advise the removal of tall trees and planting plum and blackberry shrubs.

“Little Blue Stem and big blue stem have great forage value for cattle, but they’re also wonderful Quail grasses. Allow more weeds to grow up. Weeds are not bad. Weeds provide some forage value for cattle, but they also are critical for Quail. Weeds provide insects for Quail chicks to feed on in the summer.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation says quail hunting is still possible and won’t affect the current population, since there’s a limit of eight.

Conservationists will be applying these practices to public lands, including the Talbot Conservation Area in La Russell.

MDC officials hope these new landscapes will show landowners that they can modify their property to help grow the quail population as well.

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