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Comeback Specials (FLWCRNC)

TopicHabitat and Management - Restoration
This program emphasizes that wildlife and fisheries management is the principle duty of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. While the agency has restored declining populations of several species, it must monitor fish and wildlife numbers and available habitat to make accurate management decisions.

Grade Level4 - 12 (Program can be modified to suit the audience)
Recommended SettingIndoor or outdoor classroom
LocationForrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro

Education Program Coordinator, 870-933-6787

Duration25 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants25 - 120
Special Conditions
Must have a minimum of 25 students
  • Realize historical declines of once abundant wildlife populations in Arkansas.
  • Understand how AGFC restored several species to healthy levels.
  • Observe that some species were not restored and were extirpated from Arkansas.
  • Learn what wildlife and fisheries biologists must consider when making management decisions and some of the methods they use to monitor populations.
  • Examine the balance between good habitat and populations of wildlife and fish.
  • Realize that biologists must build consensus for necessary management work in the affected areas.
  • Understand how modern land use affects wildlife.
  • Review how AGFC is tackling shrinking northern bobwhite quail populations.


Key Terms*

Black bear

Carrying capacity

Controlled burn



Eastern wild turkey


Fisheries biologist

Fisheries management



Management plan

Northern bobwhite quail

Population monitoring



White-tailed deer

Wildlife biologist

Wildlife management


Comeback Specials PowerPoint presentation


The AGFC has restored several native species populations in Arkansas after sinking to historic lows. The AGFC turned sparse populations of black bear, white-tailed deer and eastern wild turkey into healthy ones. The agency also is working to reverse declines of the northern bobwhite in Arkansas.


  1. Begin by playing the Comeback Specials PowerPoint to show how AGFC restored wildlife species populations. Point out that while several efforts were successful (white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey and black bear), some were not. In fact, several species were extirpated from Arkansas due to habitat loss, unlimited taking and other reasons.
  2. Outline the lengthy restorations of deer, turkey and bear populations. Only about 500 deer remained in Arkansas by 1930 after generations of unlimited taking and poaching. Founded in 1915, AGFC had scarce resources to address the problem. In time, however, the agency increased the herd by restricting hunting seasons, translocating deer and establishing game refuges. Deer populations grew steadily and now number around one million. Explain how AGFC wildlife biologists collect data from hunters for management purposes.
  3. Turkeys were abundant in Arkansas until widespread deforestation caused major habitat loss in the early to middle 1900s. AGFC closed turkey seasons from 1946-1948 and intensively trapped and relocated to rebuild the population. By the late 1990s, annual turkey harvests were around 10,000 birds.
  4. Once known as the Bear State for its vast bruin population, Arkansas supplied bear oil, hides and meat to out-of-state markets in the 1800s. This demand, combined with citizens’ fear and unlimited taking, almost obliterated bears in Arkansas. AGFC estimated fewer than 50 remained by the 1940s, and those were confined to the lower White River drainage. The agency began a 10-year restocking effort in 1959 by trading bass and turkeys for 268 bears from Minnesota and Canada. These bears were released in remote areas of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Bear numbers grew to the point that AGFC reopened bear season in 1980 for the first time in 53 years. About 4,000 bears inhabit Arkansas now. Explain how AGFC wildlife biologists use the radio tracking collars to track black bear dispersal.
  5. Explain that AGFC wildlife and fisheries biologists must make complex decisions to manage wildlife and fish populations. They must monitor species populations and evaluate habitat conditions. Further, they consider human desires and effects. Biologists compile their research and give recommendations to AGFC commissioners. If regulation changes are necessary, commissioners enact them.
  6. Introduce the population rebuilding effort with the northern bobwhite. Coveys of quail were abundant until the middle to late 1900s. AGFC wildlife biologists attributed their decline to habitat fragmentation. Quail require a mixture of native grass openings and escape cover such as brush piles or forest edges.
  7. Explain how AGFC wildlife biologists use controlled burns as part of quail habitat work. Livestock operations and urbanization disrupted ideal quail habitat across Arkansas in recent decades. AGFC is working to educate private landowners on managing for quail on adjoining properties. The agency has also partnered with a natural gas drilling company to establish quail habitat along gas pipelines. As with earlier restorations, it will take time to build consensus.
  • Use the most recent deer, turkey and quail population surveys to create math lessons.
  • Have participants research the quail management plan and write reports on AGFC efforts to restore quail.
  • For grades 9 - 12, groups of 40 or smaller only: Distribute the You Are the Biologist question sheets. Split the participants into groups of four or five. Assign each group the questions and see what they would recommend if they were AGFC wildlife biologists. Each group should select a spokesperson to report its recommendations. This exercise illustrates the complex factors AGFC biologists face with management decisions.

This program is suitable for many grade levels. Use age-appropriate vocabulary

  • What is wildlife restoration? How does this relate to wildlife management?
  • Name several ways wildlife biologists might monitor animal populations.

Wilson, Steven N. (1998). Arkansas Wildlife: A History. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.



Black bear – a medium-sized North American bear and the largest native mammal in Arkansas, Ursus (Euarctos) americanus, relatively common in uninhabited mountainous areas, ranging from light brown to black with a straight brown muzzle: northern populations may be gray to near-white; restored by AGFC from a low of about 50 in the 1940s to around 4,000 today


Carrying capacity – amount of wildlife or fish an area of land or water can sustain which may be affected by available food, water and space


Controlled burn – a confined, seasonal fire foresters and wildlife biologists use to manage habitats and create new ones


Cover – shelter for wild animals such as thickets and dense vegetation, brush piles and forests


Covey – a flock of quail (in Arkansas, a flock of Northern Bobwhite)


Eastern wild turkey – largest game bird in Arkansas and the only subspecies of the bird found in the state


Extirpation – removal of a species from an area without extinction; species extirpated from Arkansas include the prairie chicken and bison


Fisheries biologist – scientist who studies and manages native fish species


Fisheries management – management of fish populations through research, habitat manipulation, stocking, water quality control and regulations


Forage – pasture grasses consumed by livestock and wildlife or the act of searching for such food


Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs


Management plan – a scientific method for keeping wildlife and fish populations at optimal levels based on habitat and population surveys


Northern Bobwhite Quail – a mostly ground-dwelling bird prized by sportsmen; was once widespread in Arkansas but has suffered from habitat loss; AGFC is attempting to restore quail population