Drought affects pheasant numbers


PIERRE (AP) – South Dakota drought conditions will be affecting more than just farmers and ranchers this fall: Hunters will also likely be affected.

The north-central portion of South Dakota may be in rough shape in October, the Capital Journal reported.

Travis Runia, senior upland game biologist for the Game, Fish and Parks Department, said the Mobridge area, which dealt with heavy winter snows, is bearing the brunt of the drought.

"It's definitely a concern," Runia said.

South Dakota's pheasant range is also expected to be impacted. The drought mainly affects the plants that make up pheasant habitats so there's not much that can be done to improve the conditions, Runia said.

In 2008, changes in land use began to change how counties produced more pheasants. Nearly 15 years ago, counties along the James River valley once had the state's highest concentrations of pheasants. The counties in the Missouri River valley now have South Dakota's highest pheasant production.

Runia said providing good foundations for habitats could help pheasants to nest and raise broods.

The department created a new program to help create those habitats. The brood-plot program gives landowners seeds for flowering plants that are used for wildlife food plots. The plants provide a canopy for pheasant chicks to take shelter in and a place where the chicks can find insects. The insects are very important to the pheasant population.

"Pheasant chicks exclusively eat insects for the first eight weeks of their lives," said Brian Pauly, a private land-habitat biologist for GF&P. "Brood plots are basically a bug buffet."

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