Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ring-necked Pheasant Restoration in Minnesota

A long-range pheasant plan (.pdf) approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 2005 “describes strategies to achieve a pheasant harvest of 450,000 roosters [25 percent above the 1987-2000 average] primarily by capitalizing on a suite of well-funded farm programs available through 2008.”

Pheasant harvests since 1964 have averaged 65-75 percent lower than during the peak years of 1931-1964 (see below). The reason for the decline and failed recovery is attributed to severe winter weather in the mid-1960s followed by dramatic changes in land use that reduced the availability of food and cover for pheasants.

Selected excerpts from the plan:
Pheasants were first stocked in Minnesota in 1905, but none of the released birds survived. A self-sustaining population was established in 1916-18 after 4,000 adults were released and another 6,000 eggs were given to farmers and hunters interested in rearing pheasants.

By 1922, pheasants had been released in 78 of the state’s 87 counties, and the population was growing rapidly. The altered prairie landscape that was too intensively farmed for sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens proved ideal for ring-necked pheasants.

In 1931, less than 15 years after releases of a few thousand birds, the fall pheasant population in Minnesota yielded a harvest of 1 million roosters (estimated population of over 4 million pheasants), and harvest averaged that level through 1964.
Figure 1 (p. 3) shows trends in pheasant harvest, 1924-2000, and Figure 2 (p. 12) shows the distribution of pheasants in Minnesota as of 2003.

Citation: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2005 (March 8). Long range plan for the Ring-necked Pheasant in Minnesota. 24 pp.

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