CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Gov. Jim Justice announced today that the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is beginning a five-year project to restore northern bobwhite quail to the state. This bird is a native species and once was found across West Virginia, but the winters of 1977, 1978, and 1979 devastated the bobwhite quail in West Virginia.
“There’s no question we’ve lost favorable habitat to quail over the last several decades, however, there is still a significant amount of habitat for quail to flourish by starting this reintroduction program,” Gov. Justice said. “Over the next few years, we’re going to work so that our folks can once again hear that familiar bobwhite whistle.”
At the urging of Gov. Justice, the DNR is working on a restoration project at the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County enhancing habitat that will sustain bobwhite quail. Much of that work has been completed, and the DNR is working closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency on this project.
Last week 48 birds were captured in Texas and released at the Tomblin WMA. Transmitters have been placed on some of the quail to monitor survival and habitat use.
“The DNR is charged with maintaining and protecting West Virginia’s Wildlife, committing staff and resources to help restore a species that has been in dramatic decline for over 40 years fits right into our mission,” said DNR Director Stephen McDaniel. “Sportsmen and women in this state are lucky to have a Governor that continues to support those efforts.
“He asked me to look into the possibility of restoring bobwhite quail in West Virginia a couple of years ago so we started working with our friends in Texas to put something together, but the weather never seemed to cooperate until now. We are really excited to get this project underway and the Tomblin WMA is a great place to start,” Director McDaniel added.
“We are already providing habitat management resources in the area for our Elk restoration efforts that will benefit these birds as well,” he said. “In the future wouldn’t it be great if you were able to see both Elk and Quail on a visit to southern West Virginia?”
“Most game biologists know that the wild populations of quail have been greatly diminished in West Virginia,” said Michael Peters, DNR Game Bird and Small Game Project Leader. “With the support of Gov. Justice, we have the interest, financial backing, and support that will allow this long-term, management-intensive project to succeed.”
Peters estimates it will take several years to see if this project is successful, although the goal is a self-sustaining population. In the meantime, the information the DNR gathers from this project may allow staff to help private landowners and small farmers to manage bobwhite on their own properties.
“It’s kind of neat when you start talking to the older generation. The bobwhite whistle is one of the most common calls they remember,” Peters said. “When we get into this project, it would be nice in the years to come if folks all across West Virginia can hear the pleasant bobwhite whistle again in the Mountain State.“