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Comeback Specials (WSJCANC)

TopicHabitat and Management - Restoration
This lesson emphasizes that wildlife and fisheries management is the principle duty of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). While the agency has rescued declining populations of several species, it must constantly monitor numbers of fish and wildlife and the available habitat to make accurate management decisions.
Grade Level4 - 12
Recommended SettingIndoor or outdoor classroom
LocationWitt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock
Education Coordinator, 501-907-0636
Duration45 - 60 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants30
  • Realize 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 became extirpated from Arkansas.
  • Learn the factors that wildlife and fisheries biologists must consider when making management decisions and some of the methods they use to monitor population numbers.
  • Examine the balance between good habitat and population numbers of wildlife and fish.
  • Realize that biologists must often convince people that management work is necessary for building consensus in the affected areas.
  • Understand how modern land use practices affect wildlife.
  • Review how AGFC is currently addressing concerns over bobwhite quail populations.
Key Terms*

Amendment 75 of 1996

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

Black bear

Carrying capacity

Central Arkansas Nature Center

Controlled burn



Eastern wild turkey


Fisheries biologist

Fisheries management



Management plan

Northern bobwhite quail

Population monitoring



White-tailed deer

Wildlife biologist

Wildlife management


Acres for Wildlife seed bag

Copies of “Arkansas Quail: Private Lands Management Guide”

Bear tracking collar

Bobwhite quail specimens

Comeback Specials Power Point presentation

Deer jawbone extractor

Drip torch

Fact sheet on suggested quail food plot plants

Copies of “Wildlife Management for Arkansas Private Landowners”

You Are the Biologist question sheets


The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission restored several species from very low levels. The black bear, white-tailed deer and eastern wild turkey are examples of AGFC’s management practices that turned sparse populations into healthy numbers. The agency is currently working to reverse declines of the northern bobwhite quail in Arkansas.

  1. Introduce yourself and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission.
  2. Begin by using the Comeback Specials Power Point to illustrate how AGFC restored wildlife 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 in the past by habitat loss, unlimited taking and other reasons.
  3. Outline AGFC’s lengthy efforts to restore 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 in its early years had scarce manpower and resources. In time, however, the agency began increasing the herd by restricting hunting seasons, translocating deer and establishing game refuges. Deer populations grew and now number around one million. Pass around the jawbone extractor and explain how AGFC wildlife biologists collect data from hunters for management purposes.
  4. Turkeys were abundant in Arkansas until widespread deforestation caused major habitat loss in the early to mid-20th century. AGFC closed turkey seasons in 1946-1948 and began an intensive trapping and relocation effort to rebuild the population. By the late 1990s, annual turkey harvests were around 10,000 birds.
  5. 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 led to the demise of 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. Pass around the bear tracking collar and explain how AGFC wildlife biologists use the collars to track black bear dispersal within habitats.
  6. Explain that AGFC wildlife and fisheries biologists must make complex decisions to wisely manage wildlife and fish populations. They must monitor species populations and evaluate habitat conditions. They also consider human desires and effects. Biologists compile their research and give recommendations to AGFC commissioners. If regulation changes are necessary, commissioners enact them.
  7. Introduce a current example of a population rebuilding effort with the northern bobwhite quail. Coveys of quail were abundant until they declined in the mid to late 20th century. AGFC wildlife biologists attributed this to habitat fragmentation. Quail require a mixture of native grass openings and escape cover such as brush piles or forest edges.
  8. Pass around the drip torch and explain how AGFC wildlife biologists use controlled burns as part of quail habitat work. Changes in livestock operations, combined with 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 restoration efforts, building consensus will take time.
  9. For 9 - 12 grades only: Distribute the question sheets and the fact sheets on quail food plots. Split the participants into groups of four or five. Tell each group to consider the questions and determine what they would recommend if they were AGFC wildlife biologists. Each group should select a spokesman to report its considerations and recommendations. Use this exercise to show the complexity of factors that AGFC biologists face with management decisions.
  • Use the most recent deer, turkey and quail population surveys to create math lessons.
  • Have participants research the quail management plan for further information and write reports on AGFC efforts to restore quail.
  • These can be included in teacher post-visit packets.
  • Why is fire said to be the oldest wildlife management tool? (History shows that early inhabitants in North America used fire to benefit wildlife.)
  • Does cattle production positively or negatively impact quail populations? Explain. (It depends on how the cattleman manages the pastureland. If there is enough cover and food available, quail can thrive. If not, they won’t.)
  • What common cattle forage grasses are detrimental to quail populations and why? (Fescue and Bermuda grass; they are too dense to allow quail movement and do not have nutritious seeds.)
  • What can be done in urban areas to enhance quail populations? (Land management practices can provide feeding areas, cover areas, beneficial wild plants and more. The more blocks of land that incorporate these tactics, the more likely quail will return.)

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife 

Black bear – the largest native mammal in Arkansas; has been restored by AGFC from a low of about 50 in the 1940s to around 4,000 today 

Carrying capacity – the amount of wildlife a given area of land can sustain; varies with amount of food, water and shelter available 

Controlled burn – a confined, seasonal fire used by wildlife biologists to create new plant growth as the basis of wildlife food chains

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

Covey – a flock of bobwhite quail 

Eastern wild turkey – the largest game bird in Arkansas; has been restored by AGFC from historic lows in the early 20th century to where about 10,000 are harvested annually now 

Extirpation – the removal of a species from a defined area without total extinction; species extirpated from Arkansas that still exist elsewhere include the prairie chicken and bison 

Fisheries biologist – a scientist who studies and manages native fish species

Fisheries management – the scientific methodology used by fisheries biologists to enable native fish populations to thrive 

Forage – pasture grasses consumed by livestock

Habitat – living place for wild animals that includes available food, water and space

Management plan – a set of guidelines used by biologists to provide for fish and wildlife populations

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

Population monitoring – a method of sampling used by wildlife biologists to estimate the number of a given species in an area; can be done in many ways including vocalization counts, harvest data from hunting season, trap counts, visual counts and more 

Translocation – the process of trapping and relocating wild animals to spread their population into new areas 

Trapping – capturing wildlife by using non-lethal or lethal traps, snares, nets or other devices 

White-tailed deer – the most popular game animal in Arkansas that AGFC has revived from about 500 in 1930 to around one million today 

Wildlife biologist – a scientist who studies and manages wild animals

Wildlife management – providing for wild animal populations by scientific processes including research techniques such as data collection, species counts, health monitoring, habitat improvement and more