Believe we’ve talked about this at least once, but a recent Wall Street Journal article on the plight of Texas quail got us thinking about it again. Here’s the applicable stuff:
…Rolling Hills Quail Research Ranch, a 4,700-acre spread an hour west of Abilene. Last month, researchers there found that the levels of parasitic worms in the eyes and intestines of West Texas bobwhite quail were three times as high as 50 years ago.
“When you have as many enemies as a quail has, something that interferes with its vision could make them more susceptible to predators,” said Dale Rollins, a biologist who serves as the center’s director. He cautioned the findings are preliminary, but researchers are now hoping to develop a medicated seed that would help the quail fight off the worms.
Here’s our question: What other “bugs” out there affect gamebirds, and to what extent?
We’re no quail experts, but know – or are told – that some “gut worms” in ruffed grouse don’t really affect them too much and are “normal.” But what about when temperatures change?
Some southwest Pennsylvania ruffie hunters think West Nile Virus might be affecting their birds.
We’re sure other examples are out there, and we’re wondering: Could this be another whammy gamebirds have to deal with? We have declining participation, declining habitat, declining revenue and unfriendly weather…do we also have diseases that aren’t being studied as much as they could at the state level because state fish and game agencies – mostly or completely funded by sportsmen and women – are forced to do a bunch of non-game work now (endangered and threatened species)?
Some things to think about from the article:
…Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 2010 quail survey backed up the [northwestern TX] hunters’ anecdotal reports. It found 8 quail per area measured, far below the longtime mean of 21. In 2011, the survey showed 5.3 birds per area measured.
Larry Hill, a retired aircraft mechanic in Krum, north of Dallas, has worked as a hunting guide and dog trainer in West Texas for the past nine years. When he started, he accompanied as many as 100 hunters a season. This year, he didn’t have a single customer. He is considering giving away his 16 bird dogs because he can’t afford to feed them much longer. “The quail is a type of dinosaur,” he said. “It may be leaving for good.”
Dang. Hate reading that.
> A random but cool thing from the WSJ article: “An auction for a pheasant-hunting trip to England with rock legend Steve Winwood drew a top bid of $60,000.” Who knew Steve liked to hunt birds?