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Wet spring could impact pheasant numbers

By: , Associated Press 06/21/2004

Heavy spring rains could leave Iowa with fewer pheasants when hunting season starts in the fall.

Some nests were washed away and many newly hatched chicks probably died because they were too wet, said Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

"It was looking to be a great spring through April for nesting, which came in drier and warmer than normal," Bogenschutz said. "The first two weeks of May were the same. Then all of a sudden, the faucets came on."

Large areas of north-central and northeast Iowa, along with parts of southwest, central and east-central Iowa had heavier than normal rainfall last month. The rain triggered flooding along many rivers.

Bogenschutz said that historically, pheasant numbers in Iowa fall after a cold, wet spring. While this spring was wet, it also was warm.

"We've only had one negative part of the equation," Bogenschutz said.

Still, wet weather is a threat, he said, because pheasant chicks can't regulate their body temperature for the first two weeks of their life. They have to stay warm and dry to survive.

"If the chicks were a couple of weeks old when we got that heavy rain in May, they probably weathered the rain just fine," Bogenschutz said.

"With rain of that volume, it is hard for the hens to keep the chicks dry if the chicks are just puff balls hatched a couple of days earlier."

Wet weather is still a factor because the rain falling now could harm broods that are just hatching.

"We are in the peak of the pheasant hatch, so we'll have to see how the rains we've been getting in the last week affected those hatches," Bogenschutz said.

Hens that lost broods in the spring will try to nest again, Bogenschutz said. However, those eggs won't hatch until July, meaning the rooster won't be as mature during pheasant season and might be harder to identify.

By October, the young roosters will just begin growing the bright-colored feathers that enable hunters to spot the male ring-necked pheasant.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

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