State Works to Restore Quail Population in Arkansas

DAMASCUS, AR -- Several years ago Region 8 news told you about a project to repopulate Arkansas with Bob White Quail, and while strides have been made work still needs to be done.

But over the past thirty years, the numbers of Bob White Quail have gone down hill, but the state is positive they can change that.

Steven Fowler is the Quail Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

"We've recovered just about every species:  bear, deer, turkey; they all had problems at one time and we recovered them all.  The reason we have a quail program is because we have a problem with quail.  We've had a big decline," said Fowler.

They started this recovery process a few years ago and in that time are seeing progress.

"Our data shows that we have stopped the decline.  It appears, for the time being, that the population isn't going down anymore although it's still pretty low," said Fowler.

Sonny Varnell is the chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and says he grew up hunting quail.

"We look forward to the restoration.  It's going to be a very, very long process.  It's been a slow process with the decline," said Varnell.

He like many wants to see this bird come back.

"30, 35, 40 years ago it was no problem to go out and probably would not be uncommon to flush 10 or 12 coveys," said Varnell.

The big question is why?

"We have a lot cleaner farming practices.  We clean everything up.  We don't leave the weedy fence rows, we don't have the edges that we're not farming, more are doing larger farming and not patch work farming anymore," said Fowler.

Only 8% of the land in the state of Arkansas is public land, the other 92% is privately owned.  It's the private land owners the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and quail program want to pitch in and help.

"There are lots of programs in the farm bill that a farmer can get in and increase their wildlife," said Fowler.

"We have private land biologists and we partner with state agencies to show private land owners how to put these habitats conditions on their land that theses species need back on the ground," said James Baker.

"We know a lot of the things a quail has to have to actually go through its lifecycle and the habitat that they're in when they're nesting and when they're brooding is critical," said Andy Miller.

There are groups you can get involved with to help, one in particular is Quail Unlimited, a group that doesn't have a chapter in Region 8.