PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – A tally of young pheasants across South Dakota indicates the bird numbers are down 64 percent from last year, a tumble blamed on months of persistent drought in 2012, a cold and wet spring this year and less bird habitat.
The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department released its annual brood count Friday showing 1.52 pheasants per mile, down from 4.19 in 2012.
“Our numbers may be down from last year, but hunters will still be able to find birds,” Travis Runia, GFP’s lead pheasant biologist, said in a news release.
The survey tracks pheasant numbers over time. The actual population size is estimated after the pheasant hunting season ends, with more information included from hunters and a winter rooster-to-hen ratio survey, the department said.
Runia said lower brood counts in 1992 and 1997 still resulted in almost 1 million pheasants shot in South Dakota each year. And the state will still offer the best pheasant hunting in the U.S., with more than 1.1 million public acres available, the department said.
The group Pheasants Forever used the release of the report to urge Congress to strengthen conservation policies.
South Dakota’s pheasant season opens Oct. 19 and runs through Jan. 5.
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