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Pheasants doing well after winter storm

Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. - The pheasant loss from the late November-early December ice storm and blizzard appears to be minimal, according to state Game, Fish and Parks officials.
"Areas with marginal habitat became inundated with snow from the storm, and any pheasant that did not move to better cover most likely perished," said Tony Leif of Pierre, GFP wildlife program administrator.
Since the storm, large flocks of pheasants have been spotted in good habitat areas, Leif said. This shows that most pheasants moved to or already were using the better habitat, such as large wetlands, Conservation Reserve Program fields and shelterbelts to escape the elements, he said.
"All in all, South Dakota is really fortunate to still have 1.5 million acres enrolled in the CRP," he said. "A year or two from now, we may not be so fortunate. Those CRP acres are providing essential winter habitat to pheasants right now, and regardless of how the rest of this winter plays out, CRP fields will again make a significant contribution to pheasant reproduction next summer."
Since 1990, the department has averaged $500,000 a year in investments in winter habitat through incentive payments to landowners for planting shelterbelts and food plots, he said. "While recent expenditures for shelterbelts are not likely helping much, those from 5, 10 and 15 years ago are paying dividends right now," Leif said.
Prior to this year's hunting season, the GF&P estimated the pheasant population at a 40-year high of nearly 9.7 million birds. That's 21 percent more than last year and 74 percent above the 10-year average.

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