Spending the game bird stamp money

Story by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News

Funds from the $7 Upland Game Bird Endorsement purchased with hunting licenses in Texas have been used to support research and education regarding bobwhite and scaled quail over the past six years.

A total of $6 million allocated by the Texas Legislature has been designated and distributed to researchers as part of the “Reversing the Quail Decline in Texas” initiative.

Dr. James Cathey, the associate director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, has spent the last six years evaluating proposed projects and working with quail researchers and educators.

“We would get requests for proposals and put together a group of people to evaluate them,” Cathey said. “So far, we have funded 28 projects directed by 18 researchers from six different universities and one private foundation.”

The topics researched have been wide in scope, with an eye on either identifying or eliminating issues affecting quail populations.

“We’ve looked at the genetics behind bobwhite, scaled and Montezuma quail, and we’ve looked at predators, both four-legged and six-legged,” Cathey said.

Another “predator” has no legs, and research has resulted in promising results.

“At Texas Tech, much research has been done on eyeworms and cecal worms in quail,” Cathey said. “The work continues to move ahead on medicated feed.”

The medicated feed works like a dewormer in quail, only has to be administered twice each year at feeders to be effective, and is scheduled to be approved soon by the Food and Drug Administration.

Other topics researched involved aflatoxin, pesticides, habitat and translocation of quail species into areas where they have all but disappeared.

“Texas has changed over time with population growth and habitat destruction and fragmentation,” Cathey said. “It has a direct impact on quail. Habitat change hash and the most dramatic effect on quail in Texas.”

Researchers have trained 23 graduate students, 13 master’s students and 11 Ph.D. candidates. The researchers have produced 27 peer-reviewed articles and a book so far.

“Research moves slowly, so there will be more to come,” Cathey said.

The quail initiative has two components, Cathey said, with education being the second prong.

“We call them high tech and high touch,” Cathey said. “High touch involves county programs. We have held76 programs with 2,600 attendees. Many of the people don’t know a quail from a canary.”

Other programs include the Texas Quail Index run by county extension agents in 63 counties, Quail Masters with more than 100 participants, Bobwhite Brigades with more than 200 cadets, and quail classes with theTexas Wildlife Association.

The high tech component includes a website taking people to the research materials, quail publications like a management calendar for landowners, social media, webisodes, news releases, newsletters and videos.

Cathey maintains a blog called Wild Wondering Sloth which included 350 articles, 73 dealing with quail.

“We felt if we created something, we wanted seven to10 other benefits of that use to maximize our work,” hesaid.

The 39 webisodes have garnered 110,000 views, while shorter videos on topics like “Plants of the week” have been seen 81,000 times.

Cathey is known in quail circles for squeezing the maximum use out of each dollar.

“He can get more done with less than anyone I know,”said Joe Crafton of Park Cities Quail.

Funding from the legislature for the next biennium isn’t likely, Cathey said, but the work will continue.

“I’m pleased with our efforts,” he said. “We’ve reached hundreds of thousands of people and brought attention of the plight of quail in our state. It worries me how fast our state is growing — I’m proud of our effort here to address the issue.”

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