North Dakota pheasant numbers down 30 percent over yearBISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A summer survey indicates that North Dakota's pheasant population is down about 30 percent from last year.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A summer survey indicates that North Dakota's pheasant population is down about 30 percent from last year.
Officials in late July and August made more than 250 runs along about 100 brood routes across the state and found that the number of broods was down 29 percent over the year and the average brood size was down 10 percent, according to Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the state Game and Fish Department.
"Poor production this spring resulted in fewer young birds added to the population and a lower fall population in all areas of the state," he said in a statement.
The number of birds observed during the survey was down 25 percent from 2012 in the southwest, down 35 percent in the northeast, down 39 percent in the northwest and down 43 percent in the southeast.
One factor is habitat loss as more grassland idled under the federal Conservation Reserve Program is converted to lucrative crops.
"In certain parts of the state, we are seeing habitat changes that aren't necessarily beneficial to pheasants," Jeb Williams, Game and Fish assistant wildlife chief, told The Dickinson Press. "It's not necessarily a surprise. Once you lose CRP acres, you lose that good habitat that raises and rears pheasants."
Another factor is unfavorable weather.
"Earlier this summer we thought it was possible that nesting season was delayed enough to avoid an influence from the cold, wet spring, but it now appears that wasn't the case," Kohn said.
Pheasants are big business in North Dakota — tens of thousands of hunters kill at least half a million birds in a typical season. Even though pheasant numbers are down overall, there will still be local areas with good populations, according to Kohn.
"Our numbers are down about a third from what hunters saw last year," he told The Dickinson Press. "They are still pretty decent numbers overall. We are starting to see a shift in our pheasant numbers on a downward trend."
The regulator pheasant hunting season opens Oct. 12 and continues through next Jan. 5. The two-day youth season is Oct. 5-6.