Habitat & Conservation  |  06/21/2024

Watering Holes in the Wild

Volunteers installed water guzzlers at three sites in Nevada to support wildlife during times of drought.

New Guzzler Sites in Nevada Will Support Mountain Quail

By Lauren Stamm

The Southern Nevada Chapter of Quail Forever (SNQF) recently partnered with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) and Wildlife Habitat Improvement of Nevada (WHIN) to install three new small game guzzlers targeting mountain quail in their southernmost range. Guzzlers are water containment systems that catch and store water from rain and snow that are used by wildlife during dry periods. Mountain quail are a priority species for NDOW, and a valued resource in the state. Nevada has been affected by record seasons of drought, and guzzlers assist in providing water during times of severe drought.

In 2023, SNQF conducted small game trail camera surveys to help determine the best location for these new guzzlers. Trail cameras were strategically placed throughout the region at water sources during the summer to capture photos of mountain quail usage. The cameras were collected after 30 days, and camera data was reviewed by chapter members. The compiled data was then given to NDOW and used to decide where guzzlers would have the most potential to support Nevada’s mountain quail populations.

Mountain quail are an elusive species, and this method of study has been found useful in determining population numbers and usage. After reviewing the date, three sites were selected for guzzler installations.

Installing the guzzlers involved a team of 30 individuals who broke into groups to install supports, purlins, and aprons to achieve a watertight collection surface. Once installed, the guzzlers were plumbed to collect water in underground tanks. The remote locations required each site to be hand finished before fiberglass tanks were dropped in the ground. Once the tanks were in place, the ground was backfilled to prevent cracking due to water weight.

All three guzzler sites have active cattle allotments managed by the Bureau of Land Management, so fencing was installed to protect the sites from cattle and other ungulates. The locations of these guzzlers are in wild country hundreds of miles from large cities. Thankfully, their design requires minimal to no maintenance.

Wildlife does not require guzzlers, but they are especially beneficial in areas with cattle and feral horses where natural springs can be trampled and dry up. Priorities in this area of Nevada are now shifting to the construction of spring enclosures. This will keep the riparian habitat around the springs preserved, while still providing water for cattle and game animals.

installing guzzlers in nevada
Due to the remoteness of the guzzler installation sites, volunteers camped multiple nights while hand finishing the sites.

These man-made water sources can help ensure water availability during times of drought by capturing rainwater in a way that prevents it from evaporating. In addition to quail, these guzzlers provide water to an ample amount of other wildlife including badgers, foxes, and an array of songbirds and insects.

This project brought three entities together for the betterment of Nevada’s wild places and species. The volunteers camped multiple nights under the stars on public land and were able to come together around a campfire, bonding over a shared passion for hunting and conservation.

Collaborative projects like these have big impacts on wildlife. WHIN provided a full camp kitchen set up with a complete spread of food for volunteers for all meals. NDOW provided the guzzler materials and navigated environmental policy approval for the build sites. By combining resources with other agencies and organizations, SNQF was able to successfully impact known mountain quail populations to help ensure these beautiful birds remain in the state for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy.

Matt Brown, President of SNQF, stated, “While Nevada is primarily known for other game birds, the largest, and perhaps most elusive North American quail is well distributed here. NDOW works hard to augment or introduce new populations of translocated mountain quail throughout the state when source stocks allow. If you’re up for an adventure and willing to do some research, these remote coveys will take you to some of the most beautiful places in the Sagebrush State.”

Lauren Stamm is the Quail Forever Southwest Regional Representative.

This story originally appeared in the 2024 Summer Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a member today!