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South Dakota’s annual pheasant survey may have indicated a positive population increase over the last twelve months but conservation groups are warning that it is no time for celebration yet. Instead, groups like Pheasant Forever are suggesting that efforts need to be concentrated on habitat conservation.

The reason cited for the 42% increase in pheasant sightings during the annual survey, was the good weather of the past year. While this is positive for pheasants, it isn’t a long term solution to the decline in pheasant populations that occurred during the previous decade.

However, Dave Nomsen, Vice-President of Government Affairs for Pheasant Forever, has stated that there is a strong indication that such positive results can only demonstrate the state is doing something right at the moment.

"If you put the right habitat in the right areas, you can double and triple that population in a short time frame just because pheasants are so prolific and so biologically receptive to responding to the right conditions," Nomsen was quoted as saying.

The ‘pheasants per mile index’ this year was 3.8, up 2.68 from 2014 and 1.52 in 2013. In 2013, hunters harvested fewer than 1 million pheasants, this was a record low. The index recorded this year is similar to that when hunters harvested 1.56 million pheasants in 2011.

Nomsen, who is leading the conservation efforts from the new Pheasants Forever regional headquarters in Brookings, has stated that he is excited by the potential for the state’s habitat using the new South Dakota Habitat Conservation Fund. The fund was established in 2014 and is designed as a permanent funding source for the state’s habitat work. So far, there have been $425,000 private contributions and the government has dedicated $350,000.

The South Dakota pheasant season starts on October 17 and runs through until January 3rd. Youth resident hunters can get an early start with South Dakota’s annual youth hunting extended weekend that takes place on October 3rd through to October 7th. A residents only pheasant weekend is also taking place on October 10th to October 12th.

What habitat efforts have you taken part in this year? How would you use the funds?

Let us know in the comments below.


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