When you’re building a house, you can’t just lay the bricks on the ground. You first need a foundation to build on, so the house will last for years to come.
This is the philosophy behind a new program by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to restore quail throughout the state.
For decades, the department stocked millions of these birds in an attempt to bring the numbers back to what our grandfathers’ fathers enjoyed. These efforts ultimately failed because there was no foundation—the overgrown fields of native plants disappeared with the rise of mowing machines and the farmers’ need to get all the production out of the land they could. Quail no longer had the habitat they needed to survive and thrive.
Biologists estimate that since 1960, nearly 70 percent of the state’s quail population has disappeared.
While there were some scattered success stories by landowners who restored wildlife habitat to their property, vast gaps still existed throughout the state. That’s why this new quail restoration effort concentrates on habitat restoration of large blocks of land—ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 acres—in eight areas across the state.
These focus areas include private property in Livingston, Breckinridge, Hart, and Leslie counties. Publicly owned properties receiving special attention include Peabody Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Ohio and Muhlenberg counties; Clay WMA in Nicholas and Fleming counties; Bluegrass Army Depot in Madison County; and West Kentucky WMA in McCracken County. No quail stockings are planned on these areas, in the hope that wild birds will spread naturally.
Landowner participation is critical to the success of this plan. If just a handful of people join the effort, it will only create isolated pockets of property suitable for quail. It will take an entire community for this to work.
Department employees not only can provide advice to landowners on how to improve their property for wildlife, but they can provide information about various programs available to help pay for this work.
Wildlife watchers who don’t hunt also benefit. Restored land draws all kinds of wildlife, including songbirds, owls, and foxes.
Do your part for quail and other Kentucky wildlife. Call the department at (800) 858-1549 Monday through Friday for more information on habitat improvement projects.
Own your own art print of the quail that appear on license plates across the state. Limited-edition prints by nationally acclaimed wildlife artist Rick Hill are now available for $35 each. Only 500 of these prints were made. Each print is personally signed and numbered by the artist. To order your copy, go online to www.fw.ky.gov, then click on the “Kentucky Afield Store” icon.