Quail Management: Leave the Coyotes?

When it comes to quail management, proper techiniques for increasing quail populations includes predator control and habitat enhancment. However, on-going research suggests that coyotes may be beneficial to quail populations that thought in the past, at least if the preliminary results pan out. The research, which takes place in Texas, involves putting GPS tracking devices on raccoons and coyotes to find out information on their movement patterns.

To date, the study has found that female raccoons were limited to the riparian areas with dense undercover and tall trees. Quail do not inhabit such areas, so female raccoons are presumed innocent of the crime of eating and destroying quail nest. However, whether female raccons would venture into the grassland if coyotes were absent remains to be seen, because all coyotes would have to be removed to determine their response.

Male raccoons, on the other hand, moved around much more. While females stayed within home ranges that were just over 100 acres, male raccoons used areas as large as those of coyotes! In fact, males travelled about 4 miles each night. Male raccoons often ventured beyond the protection of the wooded areas into the grasslands and onto the rocky hillsides where they dozed the day away under tangled boulders.

However, raccoons strongly avoided entering the most cactus-infested grasslands. This movement data suggest that cactus may provide protection against predators such as raccoons, although similar movement data from coyotes shows they use cactus-covered grasslands.

It will take additional data to determine if coyotes are are eating quail, but this study suggest that quail management may involve not controlling coyote populations.

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