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Research Ranch Celebrates Earth Day with Quail Release

Research Ranch Celebrates Earth Day with Quail Release
Students from Paducah High School release radio collared scaled quail on the Matador Wildlife Management Area near Paducah, Texas. The release is part of an ongoing research effort called Operation Transfusion. (Photo courtesy of Russell Graves)

Paducah, Texas - With a crowd consisting of biologists, Paducah High School students, media members, and local citizens interested in seeing wild quail make a comeback, biologists from the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department released 36 scaled quail from three different sites on the 28,000-acre Matador Wildlife Management Area near Paducah, Texas.

“We wanted to to take a different slant on Earth Day,” says Dale Rollins, director of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. “Earth Day to most people means recycling or picking up trash and those are all noble causes. But with the economic and ecological importance of quail to this part of Texas, what a better way to bring attention to the plight of the bobwhite and blue quail than to release some birds into the wild as part of our Operation Transfusion study.”

Operation Transfusion is a multi-county research effort designed to relocate scaled and bobwhite quail back to habitat where they’ve long been extirpated. A total of 160 bobwhites (including about 80 hens) were released at study sites in Stephens and Palo Pinto counties. Similarly, 120 blue quail were relocated to the Matador Wildlife Management Area in Cottle County and an additional site in Nolan County.

“We’ve been blessed with good support on several fronts for Operation Transfusion efforts,” says Rollins. “We’re obliged to the dozen or so landowners who have served as quail donors. We couldn’t have done this without their assistance. Then there’s the financial support provided to RPQRR by Quail Coalition, West Texas Safari Club, and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension’s Quail Decline Initiative.”

The goal of Operation Transfusion is to gather data to evaluate the efficacy of translocating wild-trapped quail into recently vacated ranges as a means of “jump-starting” otherwise faltering populations. Some of the released birds are radio collared and their movements and survivability are monitored. “We’ve seen some early successes in Shackelford County with bobwhites,” says Rollins referring to releases three years ago north of Abilene, Texas. “We’ve gained enough evidence to suggest that relocating birds is a viable alternative to restocking areas devoid of quail. Similarly, we’ve released blue quail back to the RPQRR over the past two years and their status looks very good at this point.”

With dramatic declines in both scaled and bobwhite quail numbers over their range, Rollins believes that translocation is the only viable means to restoring quail numbers back to ranges where habitat is suitable but the birds are absent.

“There’s a lot of very good looking quail country out there that may be 25, 50, or 100 miles from the closest quail. Rollins says. “Pen raised birds don’t survive in the wild, we know that. So can we use translocation techniques that’s worked for wild turkeys and deer and apply them to quail? We think so.”

About the Ranch

The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is a 4,720-acre ranch in Fisher County, Texas. The ranch’s aim is to provide land managers, and other stakeholders, with timely, relevant technology and management schemes for enhancing quail populations in the Rolling Plains of Texas. In doing so, the ranch hopes to sustain the “quail dynasty” that has supported hunters, ranchers, local economies, hunters, and the quails themselves.

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