Friday, September 23, 2011

Quail management meeting for Babcock-Webb WMA

Quail management for the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Charlotte County is the topic of a public meeting on Oct. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Charlotte County Extension Service office, 25550 Harbor View Road, Port Charlotte (941-764-4352).

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff will discuss tentative plans to improve quail populations on Babcock-Webb by integrating habitat and harvest management practices across the entire 65,758-acre WMA.

"Recent research on Babcock-Webb WMA suggests that modifications to harvest and habitat management are needed to increase the population of quail," said the FWC's small-game project leader, Chuck McKelvy.

McKelvy said the research also points at limiting quail harvest - up to approximately 15 percent of the pre-hunt, fall population - to sustain or allow the population to grow. The new recommendation would reduce harvest but continue to allow hunting. The FWC's objective is to increase quail numbers while maintaining the heritage of quail hunting on Babcock-Webb WMA.

Also on the meeting agenda is an introduction to a new quail research project on Babcock-Webb WMA that will focus on burn unit size, comparing larger versus smaller prescribed burn areas and the effects of the burn unit size on survival and reproduction of quail. The research project, scheduled to start in January 2012, will be led by Bill Palmer of Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. The project will help provide direction for the future of quail management on Babcock-Webb WMA.

The Tall Timbers research project is particularly important because prescribed fire is an important tool used by wildlife managers to benefit quail populations. Regular prescribed fire helps produce quality quail habitat by creating a diverse plant community that is dominated by a wide variety of low-growing, seed-producing plants and grasses. This plant structure and composition provides the essential elements for year-round food and cover for both escape and nesting.

The FWC encourages anyone interested in quail management on Babcock-Webb WMA to attend this meeting. Those unable to attend the meeting may provide comments to Chuck McKelvy at