Remedy needed for decline of quail

Published: August 30, 2013

Regarding “A champion for quail” (Sports, Aug. 18): Laura McIver is indeed a “Hero of Conservation” who's facing a daunting task. Studies are being undertaken to clarify the causes of, and a remedy to, the decline of quail. Quail chicks need insects, particularly grasshoppers. Quail, upland birds, require seeds of various wildflowers in large contiguous areas to survive a winter. Herbicides are the No. 1 reason for quail decline. Spraying pastures to get rid of weeds — that is, wildflowers — drives the birds to lowland and concentrates them there, weakened and subject to predation in winter.

Herbicides are used to increase cattle per unit for grazing or for hay. Grasses thrive, but invasive, non-native species such as Johnson grass, of dubious value for quail cover and food, and plains bluestem, of dubious value period, begin to take over even native grasses so that quail can't even walk through a pasture. It's occurring at an astounding rate.

Twenty years ago in Deer Creek, you could still find native pastures with stands of 40 or more species of wildflowers at once. I challenge anyone to find that today. They're gone. Could this be why there's a bee crisis? You bet! As bees and quail go, so go us, eventually. We all share in culpability as habitat declines.

Thank God for conservation heroes and eco-warriors like McIver. Until we begin to measure the value of our prairie in quail per unit rather than cattle per unit, quail, and bees, will become rarer.

Stanley Moorman, Edmond

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