Operation Idiopathic Decline

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is currently participating with the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (RPQRR) in a three-year study dubbed “Operation Idiopathic Decline”. The primary goal of this project is to determine the role of infectious diseases on bobwhite quail. Disease research with respect to quail has been limited and little is known about the prevalence or importance of specific diseases on the population.

ODWC’s Involvement

ODWC is providing biological samples to researchers at both Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Samples are being analyzed for assorted diseases including quail fever, pox, and bronchitis, avian influenza virus, and West Nile virus. Other associated studies will look at quail parasites and bacterial and fungal pathogens.

Biologists collects blood samples to be tested for a variety of diseases.

Biologist examines birds for ectoparasites and lesions.


Ten Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) from across Oklahoma’s Rolling Plains region are sample sites: Beaver River, Black Kettle, Canton, Cooper, Ellis County, Hackberry Flat, Mountain Park, Packsaddle and Sandy Sanders. Biologists and technicians will trap quail twice at each location — once in August and again in October. Each sampled bird will be banded to ensure all future samples are unique. If you harvest a banded quail, please report the band number.


Caption: Biologists are trapping quail on 10 WMAs as part of Operation Idiopathic Decline


ODWC staff is also collecting arthropod samples from each site. Once the samples have been tested for a range of pathogens, researchers will compare the number of birds with diseases to the prevalence of that pathogen in quail parasites (ticks and mosquitoes).

Dry ice emits CO2 - attracting potential disease vectors such as mosquitos and ticks.