By Oliver Hartner
Above-average rainfall from hurricanes and tropical depressions seem to have had a negative impact on viable coveys in Louisiana. Winter temperatures did not present a problem for bobwhite quail in The Pelican State, but torrential rains during the spring and summer along with declining habitat compounded the challenges faced by coveys on private and public lands. Areas where successional habitat has been cultivated should still see quail on their properties, but even places with optimal habitat will likely experience a decline in the number of covey rises.
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
Winter weather conditions in Louisiana are typically mild and present less of a problem for populations than in other states. “Though we did have a pretty significant freeze throughout the state late in February this year, the impacts of that are thought to be minimal,” says Cody Cedotal of the Small Game Research and Management Office for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The state seems to have had a lot more trouble with spring and summer rains across all areas. Cedotal says, “Spring and summer weather conditions appear to have been marginal to poor. Thus far, we have had above average rainfall throughout the spring and summer which could have negative impacts on reproduction.”
HABITAT, BROODS AND COUNTS
According to Cedotal, habitat continues to present problems for bobwhite populations in Louisiana, and it shows no signs of abating. “The primary issue impacting quail populations in Louisiana is a lack of quality habitat, and we seem to be losing more. The amount of available habitat for quail is very low compared to what was once available across the state,” he says. His office has not received any anecdotal insights or evidence into the hatch or brood numbers that might have survived going into the fall season, and the roadside surveys they conduct show a sharp decline in the population’s upward trend from five years ago.
Public and private properties with well-managed habitat should expect declines, but the quail are still there for those willing to put in the work. Cedotal suggests, “Western Louisiana still has viable populations of bobwhite around the Fort Polk and Peason Ridge Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and parts of the Kisatchie National Forest also hold coveys. You will need to scout these areas heavily for good habitat and check the regulations for each area.”