The Texas quail are back – sort of. Experts say the Texas quail population has notably increased this fall compared to last year’s dismal numbers. However, it seems this season’s increase won’t be enough to reverse the 5-year trend of diminishing quail numbers in Texas. According to Texas A&M Professor and Wildlife expert Dr. Dale Rollins, despite this year’s improved conditions, it is likely many hunters will opt out of hunting quail again this year.
“There will be many ranches in the state that say, ‘Hey, we want to give our populations a break from hunting this year, we want to allow them to recover a little bit, and hopefully have good weather this year, so we have better breeding populations next spring. And then we’ll see a nice increase in our core population in the fall of 2013,’” Rollins tells StateImpact Texas.
Rollins also says the 2011 drought is only one cause of the lowest quail numbers in Texas history.
Destruction of the quail’s habitat has played a huge role in their decimation. Rollins has also discovered parasitic worms in the quails that could be indirectly killing quail. Rollins found the worms in the eyes and stomachs of the birds he has studied. These worms, Rollins believes, impair the quail’s eyesight and make them more vulnerable to predators.
“You gotta figure if you’ve got something in your eye, you might not be paying attention to some of your goings on around ya,” Rollins says. “The quail have a lot of goings on, they have a lot of enemies.”
Rollins is currently in the second phase of his research studying these worms. And some $2 million in funding was pledged last year to study the decline of Texas quail.
But Rollins worries about the longevity of the quail population, especially since Texas is viewed as the last stronghold of wild quail.
“Texas is the Alamo, if you will, of wild quail hunting,” Rollins says, “so there’s a lot of people watching what’s happening in the state of Texas.”