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DEC releases new, 10-year-old management plan for pheasants

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By David Figura/The Post-Standard

January 26, 2010, 1:37PM

The following was released this week by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in regard to its new, 10-year plan for ring-necked pheasants in the state:

In May 2008 the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began revision of its 10-year management plan for pheasants adopted in 1999. A team of biologists and technicians reviewed current pheasant research, looked at how other states manage pheasants, and contacted stakeholders for input. A draft plan was developed and released for public comment over a two-month period ending Nov.13, 2009. After a thorough review of the public comments, the pheasant plan revision team revised the draft plan. Only minor changes were necessary.

Changes include:

1. Longer seasons to allow the taking of propagated pheasants released by the state, cooperators in state programs, and private individuals that raise and release pheasants on their own. Very few released pheasants survive to breed the following year. Therefore, extending seasons provides more days afield for hunters and allows for a higher harvest of released birds.

2. A longer season in the cocks-only hunting area of western New York. Extending the season in the cock-only area of western New York should not impact wild pheasant populations in that area. Hen pheasants are still protected and the season closes before mid-winter when hunting disturbance could affect survival of wild pheasants. The longer season is more closely aligned with other states that have cock-only hunting areas. Hunters will have more days to hunt cock pheasants that are released in the area, providing for higher harvest.

3. Eliminate distribution of birds for National Field Trials. For many years, the Department provided 600 adult cock pheasants each year for a series of three National Field Trials at the DEC Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area in central New York. Although these birds are not shot during the trials, many are killed by predators and others are flushed off the area. Therefore, they are unavailable to hunters during the pheasant hunting season. The 600 birds will be better utilized during the regular pheasant hunting season, or during special hunts for youth, people with disabilities, novices, and women. Field trial organizations can still apply to use state land and facilities to host events, but they would be required to buy or bring their own birds. The Department has received additional requests for pheasants for field trials which it has denied.

4. Terminate the Young Pheasant Release Program in 2011 and increase adult pheasant production by 5,000 birds per year. Our banding study of young pheasants determined that less than 10 percent of the young pheasants were reported harvested. Adult pheasants released just prior to and during the season may reach harvest rates of 50 percent. Eliminating the rearing and release of 15,000 young pheasants during the summer will allow the Department to produce 5,000 additional adult pheasants in the fall to benefit more hunters and increase the harvest of state propagated pheasants.

5. Identify a "focus area" in the Lake Plains of western New York where most pheasant habitat management resources would be directed to provide the greatest potential to sustain a wild population.

The new plan is now adopted and scheduled for implementation over the next 10 years. The Management Plan for Ring-necked Pheasants in New York 2010-2020 can be viewed on the DEC website.

If you do not have internet access, a hard copy can be obtained by calling the DEC's Cortland office at (607) 753-3095.

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