posted on February 23, 2014 20:36
A change in the way that farmers are managing their crops and land, has lead to an 86 percent drop in the number of wild Nebraska pheasants since 1960s. A slightly smaller, yet still significant drop has been seen in Iowa, where the population has dropped 63 percent since their heights of the 1970’s.
The numbers have become so low that farmed pheasants are now being driven to popular hunting areas and released.
Larkin Powell, a wildlife biologist from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, identifies the problem being with the way farmers are utilizing the land.
In the 1930’s the land was a group of patchwork of up to 25 different crops scattered in the fields. Nowadays the same land is more intensely farmed with only two or three crops covering the same space.
With this change in usage has come the change in layout. Some farmers are creating more crop space by planting their crops roadside to roadside; eliminating the fencerows which game birds rely upon.
Land set aside in the federal Conservation Reserve Program has also taken a hit. Some 30,000 acres from Nebraska was lost to farming crops between 2008 and 2013.
This is bad news for the Nebraska pheasant hunters. With the loss of birds, comes the loss of income from the travelling hunters and the local economy takes a hit. It is estimated that a single pheasant being harvested in the area is worth $93 to the local population and the local economy benefiting from a total annual figure of $250 million. However since the 1990s, the harvest has halved.
There are some though, who are benefiting from the decline in wild Pheasant populations.
Dustin Chrisman is one of the farmers who raise pheasants to be released for hunting purposes. His farm has seen an increase in demand with an extra 10,000 – 15,000 birds having to be bred each year to keep up with the demand. He doesn’t expect it to be too long before he is producing and releasing over 100,000 birds a year.
What do you think about the decline in pheasant numbers?
Tell us in the comments!