For the last 60 to 80 years, South Carolina’s bobwhite quail population has experienced a steep decline, according to Michael Hook, small game program leader at the Department of Natural Resources and Thursday’s speaker at the Upper Savannah Land Trust meeting.
Hook heads the South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative, which was launched in 2015 by the SC DNR to help restore the bobwhite population to past levels and unearth why the population has dwindled.
“It all boils down to habitat,” Hook said. “More often than not, what’s beautiful to us is not necessarily beautiful to a quail. So when we see a nice, manicured yard, a quail sees a desert.”
Bobwhites cannot be found in South Carolina’s urban areas like Columbia, Charleston and Greenville, but there is still hope for rural areas, categorized by the SCBI as focal regions.
There are four focal region clusters in South Carolina, though the closest one to Greenwood is nearly 30 miles away in Newberry County. According to the SC DNR website, about 23,000 coveys of quail reside in these four areas, but practices like prescribed burning, timber thinning, field borders, and brood fields could more than triple that figure to 74,000.
Though bobwhites are popular targets for hunters, many have developed nostalgic ties to the bird and just miss hearing the bobwhite’s whistle.
“For some reason it seems like everybody loves quail,” Hook said. “I get more calls from landowners that say, ‘I’d like to have some quail back on my property. I don’t want to hunt them; I just want to hear them.’”
The USLT also held a silent auction during the meeting, selling items like framed pictures, a Damascus blade and an electronic rotisserie in an attempt to offset the cost of applying to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, which cost the group about $20,000.
The group recognized 2016 easement donors as well as awarded the Peggy Adams Conservation Award to Brad Thompson.
The USLT is now the fourth-largest conservative easement holder in the state and spans 10 counties across the Piedmont region and totals 42,105 acres. Nearly a third of those easements are in Greenwood County.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit or government agency to permanently protect the property from development in order to conserve the natural resources of the land.
Contact staff writer David Roberts at 864-943-2530 or follow on Twitter at @IJDavidRoberts