El Niño boosts quail populations across Oklahoma before hunting season
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is looking forward to fall for quail hunting season. According to the department, changing weather patterns this year have boosted quail populations.
The department conducted a roadside survey in August that shows the statewide quail index is up 45% from last year. Wildlife officials have been keeping track of quail for over 30 years.
Wade Free, is an assistant director of the agency and an avid quail hunter. He said the shift from three years in a row of La Niña, a warmer and dryer pattern, to El Niño, a cooler and wetter one earlier this year was great for quails.
“We had drought the last three years and quail populations were down 5, 10, even 20 percent,” he said.
Free said the ground birds need tall grass prairies and plenty of insects to survive and rain is important for growing that habitat.
“You need at least three good springs in a row that will offer good nesting and breeding conditions to really have great numbers,” he said.
Three years of consecutive drought across the state have limited quail habitat, however precipitation in May and June produced good conditions. However, quail populations are still lagging behind where they were historically, according to Free.
Free said quail enthusiasts should be excited for quail hunting season this fall compared to last season.
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