South Texas Covey Connection seeking additional landowner participants

The South Texas Covey Connection is looking for additional landowners to join its ranks, said a Texas AgriLife Research wildlife scientist.

The connection provides relevant research toward managing quail and quail habitat, said Dr. Susan Cooper, a researcher at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde.

“It began in 2003 when a group of landowners came to the center looking for help with increasing the quail population on South Texas rangelands,” she said.

Cooper said management of wildlife and wildlife habitats in Texas is mainly accomplished by private landowners, and South Texas ranches are some of the last strongholds for northern bobwhites.

“For the past six years, we have been working with many of these ranchers in southern and central Texas to help maintain and improve their properties as habitat for quail,” she said.

Landowners in the group contribute toward a research assistant’s salary and provide access to their land so scientists can assess the most effective locations upon which to create good quail habitat.

In return, participants receive information on land management alternatives, the benefit of shared experience with other landowners, the latest scientific information on quail management, and assistance with quail counts and habitat monitoring.

“Each ranch is mapped using the latest aerial photography, and details on brush clearance methods and patterns are added to the map,” Cooper said. “Then the research assistant visits each ranch on three non-consecutive days in the spring and fall to monitor quail populations in relation to habitat and environmental factors.”

Participants receive a confidential report comparing their quail production and habitat to the group average, she said. Successes and problems are identified, and recommendations are made.

“Group data is then analyzed to determine long-term trends in response by the quail to specific land treatments, habitat factors and environmental conditions,” Cooper said. “And we have annual meetings to discuss any quail management concerns and, if needed, tailor our research to areas of interest to participating landowners.”

Cooper said some of the factors and conditions assessed are the impact of rainfall in the growing season prior to nesting, the effect of different land treatments and productivity on nesting cover, insect food availability, predators observed and the presence of vegetation cover.

She added that participants benefit from the experiences of others with similar interests and from the use of a professional researcher to ensure the uniformity of data collection and the quality of the information being analyzed and disseminated.

“Retention of ranches in the South Texas Covey Connection has been excellent,” said Cooper. “Five ranches have been with it for all six years, and four other ranches have stayed in the group for several years.”

Cooper said the group would benefit from additional participants as that would provide more and broader data for assessing quail habitat and those factors influencing quail population.

For more information on the South Texas Covey Connection, contact Cooper at 830-278-9151 or [email protected].

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