NASHVILLE (press release)—The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency completed “The Tennessee Northern Bobwhite Quail Restoration Plan” last year and it is now being put into action. The northern bobwhite quail is Tennessee’s state game bird and historically was a prominent game bird across the southeastern United States. Unfortunately, due to the large scale loss of farmland, changes in agriculture, and increases in forest land, quail habitat has been reduced or eliminated. As a result, the northern bobwhite population in the U.S. has been on a decline.
The TWRA has designated four of its wildlife management areas (WMAs) to serve as anchors within a quail focus area. The four WMAs are spread across Tennessee and include Wolf River WMA (Fayette County), Bark Camp Barrens WMA (Coffee County), Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness WMA (White County), and Lick Creek Bottoms (Greene County).
The anchor areas act as permanent reserves where wildlife management efforts are focused on maximizing ideal habitat and conditions to foster a healthy and prolific quail population. As the quail population increases, it should expand out into the surrounding focus area if suitable habitat exists. The focus area is made up of private and other public lands that have the potential to hold suitable quail habitat.
To address continued declines and quail populations, TWRA private lands biologists will provide technical assistance to property owners in the focus areas. They can develop habitat management plans free-of-charge targeted to establishing and maintaining suitable quail habitat. They will also help guide the landowner to USDA conservation programs that can significantly reduce the cost of habitat conversions. TWRA and partners are in the process of determining boundaries for the quail focus areas.
The managers of the selected WMAs are busy developing habitat plans and doing on-the-ground field work. To aid in the development of habitat planning, these WMA managers have been consulting with each other, quail habitat experts, and touring all four WMAs. A quail monitoring protocol has been developed so that the quail population status on these areas can be tracked. Also, hunting seasons on these WMAs will be adjusted to minimize pressure on the growing quail populations.
Any landowners interested in improving their lands for quail should contact one of TWRA’s four private lands biologists. These biologists will meet with landowners or managers and develop a free habitat management plan and provide other advice, such as programs that can provide financial assistance. In addition, Quail Forever, a non-profit conservation organization, also has two biologists that work in West Tennessee. Contact information for these biologists and other natural resources professionals can be found for all of the state’s 95 counties at TWRAprivatelands.org or by calling the TWRA.