OPINION: Discontinuing the pheasant brood survey is a mistake

A ring-tailed rooster navigates through a Hutchinson County field in May. Matt Gade / Forum News Service
Matt Gade

I was really disappointed when I learned that the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department is now doing nothing on obtaining pheasant information. This does not cost much because Conservation Officers and other personnel already hired could just get up earlier and run a brood route on the way to some other job in their county.

GF&P does not have to hire any extra people to do this survey. Summary of the data can just be done by someone already hired as just another thing to do. The conservation officers want to know what the pheasant population numbers are themselves anyway. I know from my research that data from two routes per county may not even represent the pheasant changes in that county (but only in the area where the survey is actually done), but when pooled statewide they show correct trends in the population.

When we worked on 100-square mile study areas it took 15 runs on about three intertwined 30-mile routes to be at plus or minus 20 percent error of the mean at the 90 percent confidence level, which is adequate to show a significant change. They only do about three runs on the current survey.

The worst time to quit the survey is when the population is so low. The state needs to know what is happening with yearly pheasant numbers to evaluate any habitat or major weather or other important changes. How can we evaluate any of the federal observation practices done in our state on pheasants from the 1918 farm bill?

The state also (besides running this survey) needs to do research on Roundup effect on pheasants, effect of statewide opossum increases on nesting pheasants, effect of releasing game farm raised pheasants which are genetically and behaviorally inferior to wild birds, effect of herbicide/insecticide cocktails now used in farming, effects of new farming practices on pheasant populations and habitat changes on pheasants in Game Production Areas. You would think that pheasants that bring $250 million into our economy yearly would deserve more attention than releasing big horned sheep or the study of mountain lions.


GF&P did not document the loss of Hungarian Partridge, Bobwhite Quail and jackrabbits in our state because they did not do research on them. Now they will not only not document the loss of our most important game bird, but will not know their pattern of population disappearance without a survey.

When the number of bountied predator tails last year was divided by the miles in the South Dakota pheasant range, it only accounted for one predator taken per square mile (not even one of each species). This certainly would not amount to any type of predator control, so the sportsmen’s money would have been much better spent on pheasant habitat.

I earlier proposed that the GF&P do an additional CRP program of habitat to supplement the federal one to get 1.5 million acres when we had 5.7 to 8.6 pheasants per mile instead of the 2.47 we now have, but this suggestion was not followed. Even this could not be evaluated without a statewide pheasant survey.

— Fredrickson, of Chamberlain, worked as a pheasant research biologist for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

Related Topics: SOUTH DAKOTA
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