Sick/dead wild quail sought for study

ROBY – With quail season in full swing, experts are asking hunters to be on the lookout for sick or dead wild quail to help them solve a nagging mystery. “We’re asking hunters to let us know of any strange-acting quail or, better yet, of any  carcasses they come across or sick birds they’ve found,” said Dr. Dale Rollins, Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist at San Angelo.Rollins, who is also the director of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch near Roby, said he and his team want the birds as they may offer clues to the troubling critical decline in the Texas’ quail population over the past few years. The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch study led by Rollins is called Operation Idiopathic Decline. It’s a comprehensive study of quail diseases and parasites that may be factors involved in the birds’ decline. As part of this effort, the ranch funded eight research projects last spring at just over $2 million that include scientists from Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The word idiopathic in the title, meaning it’s unknown what’s causing the demise of quail, pretty well sums up the frustration we as hunters, educators and researchers are feeling at this point,” Rollins said. “The bobwhite quail population is at a record low in the Rolling Plains, which has long been the traditional stronghold for wild quail in Texas. To date, our research team has tested nearly 700 bobwhites from 21 Texas sites and 10 sites in Oklahoma.The results of these blood and tissue sample tests should be available by mid-March.”Rollins asks that anyone finding dead quail put them in individual plastic freezer bags, refrigerate them and contact him for further instructions at 325-653-4576,