Pheasant numbers down 46% in SD
If not in the right place please move.
There was bad news for hunters this month in the annual state Game, Fish & Parks Department survey of pheasant broods.
The annual road survey of pheasants by GF&P staffers showed a 46 percent decline in bird numbers from the 2010 survey index. This year's count was down 41 percent from the average for the last 10 years, which were exceptional years for pheasant numbers.
GF&P Secretary Jeff Vonk of Pierre said hard winter weather conditions and fewer acres of habitat in the federal Conservation Reserve Program combined to hurt pheasant reproduction this year.
"We observed abnormally high mortality of hen pheasants during the brutal winter of 2010-2011," Vonk said Thursday in a news release. "The loss of that reproductive potential inhibited the ability of our pheasant population to rebound to the recover levels we have enjoyed in recent years."
Declines in the bird counts were noted statewide but the most substantial losses were in eastern South Dakota, where winter hit hardest and habitat was most diminished. The loss of about 400,000 acres of CRP acres - about 600 square miles - in the state over the last four years also had an impact, Vonk said.
"We knew this day was coming when important pheasant habitats provided by the cover on Conservation Reserve Program fields were lost," he said.
There were 1.56 million acres of CRP in South Dakota in 2007. Now there are about 1.17 million acres.
Vonk was encouraged by the response of pheasants in central South Dakota to thick vegetation from plentiful moisture. That cover offered an environment for "excellent pheasant production" in much of the central part of the state, Vonk said.
Hunting should still be good in general and exceptional in the best areas, he said.
"All things considered, pheasant numbers in much of the traditional range of the state are still good despite declines in the counts," Vonk said.
As Charles Barkley says, "I may be wrong, but I doubt it".