The emails keep arriving in response to the Jan. 23 stories on Oklahoma’s quail population.
I received this email from John Cox, president of Game Management Services in Nocona, Texas.
Dear Mr. Godfrey:
“I read your article about the demise of the bobwhite quail in Oklahoma. I am a private wildlife biologist from Texas, I manage several ranches in the rolling plains and cross timbers areas, but spend my fall and winters in the panhandle of Oklahoma primarily running wild bird hunts on the 50,000 acre Barby Ranch in Beaver and Harper County.
“When it comes to quail, their biology and life history,the first thing comes to my mind is limiting factors. Your article about lost habitat is certainly one of the most important ones. Habitat can be improved or restored to suit bobwhite quail if one has the patience and economics to do so.
“However, when thinking of other ‘limiting factors’, I believe deer hunters rather than deer themselves may be responsible for some very harmful unintended consequences.
“The quail have slowly disappeared in Texas starting from the eastern part of the state and now westward and even into areas of south Texas. This trend strongly correlates with the increased deer population and the huge increase of land being leased specifically for deer hunting.
“More land leased means more feeders full of corn. Baiting deer ( which is all corn does ) has had brought some very detrimental ‘unintended consequences’ to the quail population.
“There was over 600,000 million lbs. of deer corn feed in the state of Texas last season. All this baiting has proliferated the feral hog and raccoon population, both of which are proven through studies to be the two biggest predators of quail eggs.
“A hog will destroy a whole nest in a few seconds and a raccoon will either eat the eggs on the spot or steal them for a meal later.
“Even so, I believe that corn itself may be the biggest culprit. A few years ago, I started pulling samples of corn from deer feeders and discovered that much of it had high levels of aflatoxin.
“Aflatoxin is a toxic substance produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. This fungus commonly grows on corn, milo, feed pellets and cereal grains.
“There are at least eight other toxins that can grow on corn or feed pellets, but aflatoxin seems to be the most prevalent. Studies have proven that this fungus that grows on corn when the plant is stressed causes the aflatoxin to grow.
“When quail eat the tainted corn it can cause liver failure, lower their immune system and make them even more susceptible to disease and predation.
“I found a solution to the corn a few years ago, when I discovered black eye peas. They are a superior nutritional supplement that benefits deer, quail and turkeys. They are full of the vitamins quail need for nesting, are highly digestible, and an excellent source of protein (20-24%).
“We feed it year round to our deer instead of protein pellets and broadcast it along feed lanes for our quail. Most importantly it is safe and not subject to the toxins that corn or other grains are.
“We do have quail in the panhandle of Oklahoma, but there are a few limiting factors not present here. No corn being fed here ever, no hogs, not an explosion of raccoons either. Our deer, turkey and beloved quail live harmoniously and all get fat on black eyed peas.
“If you want more information please visit us at: www.alternativewildlifenutrition.com and www.gamemanagementservices.com