Minnesota Pheasant Count Down 26 Percent From 2016

A rooster pheasant flies over the landscape in southwestern Minnesota. (Sam Cook photo)

Minnesota’s pheasant index is down 26 percent from last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The 2017 pheasant index, based on August roadside counts, is 32 percent below the 10-year average and 62 percent below the long-term average, DNR officials said. They blame the downturn on a continuing decline in habitat in the farmland regions of the state.

“There has been a steady decline in undisturbed nesting cover since the mid-2000s, and our pheasant population has declined as a result,” said Nicole Davros, DNR research scientist.

“Although it appeared mild winter weather and dry summer weather might boost our numbers, that wasn’t the case.”

Minnesota has lost about 686,800 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres statewide since 2007. The program pays farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and restore vegetation that will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

This year’s statewide pheasant index was 38.1 birds per 100 miles of roads driven. The highest pheasant counts were in the west-central, southwest, and south-central regions where observers reported 43 to 55 birds per 100 miles driven.

Minnesota’s 2017 pheasant season runs from Oct. 14 through Jan. 1.