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Wet streak could adversely affect pheasants

Hunter success in finding pheasants this autumn will depend on whether the wetter than normal conditions we've been experiencing adversely affects nesting success. Forum News Service file photo

WILLMAR, Minn. — A wetter-than-normal June and a wet start to July have many in the wildlife community concerned that pheasant nesting success will be adversely affected in the southern half of the state.

There's only anecdotal evidence at this point, but the concerns are real in Kandiyohi County. Cory Netland, area wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said he is among those who did not see many pheasant broods prior to the start of the wet spell. That suggests that nesting began in earnest as the rains fell, which would make the new hatchlings vulnerable.

Kandiyohi County has not experienced the torrential downpours that have made the news in southwestern Minnesota, but it's been wet enough to cause problems for pheasant nesting, he said.

Netland said last year's roadside count of pheasants, which is conducted in August, showed numbers were down in Kandiyohi County. After a relatively mild winter, many had expected numbers to rebound.

Roadside counts in the past few years have showed pheasant numbers remain slow to rebound. One possibility for the slow rebound may be the trend toward wetter-than-normal weather during the nesting season, he pointed out.

Pheasant nesting appears to be in good shape in the Lac qui Parle refuge area, according to Walt Gessler, wildlife manager with the DNR. He pointed out that while the upper Minnesota River Valley has been wetter than normal, it has been spared the heavy rain events. Gessler said he's seen young broods and is hopeful that the pheasant population will continue to rebound.

Both wildlife managers pointed out that they can only rely on what they see while in the field as well as what they hear from others who keep an eye out for pheasant broods. There will not be a clear picture of how the pheasant nesting season went until the August roadside counts take place across the pheasant range.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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