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March snow fall shouldn’t raise concerns

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Photo In this undated photo, a pheasant sits in the snow. March’s late snowstorm shouldn’t raise concerns for pheasant production.

On March 30, southwest North Dakota residents felt prolonged winter effects as a snowstorm dropped more than a foot of snow across the area.

A week later, a majority of that snow has melted and spring is on the horizon.

Though an abrupt snowfall forced winter to stay in the region a little bit longer, it didn’t affect wildfire, including pheasants.

“Those birds probably had plenty of food reserves in their system and the storm moved through pretty fast,” said Stan Kohn, the North Dakota Game and Fish upland game supervisor. “This latest one probably didn’t do much harm to them. Right now, everything seems to be cruising along. There’s no real major morality that we’ve been able to observe anytime this winter.”

Pheasant populations in southwest North Dakota spent the winter in fairly mild conditions. Game and Fish upland game biologist Aaron Robinson said pheasants could move during the winter to find an easy food supply.

“These short-lived storms don’t typically have an impact on pheasant populations,” he said. “Typically, these spring storms are expected and the birds had a good, dry spell and fairly decent open winter to keep their body condition and body weight up.”

Game and Fish would worry about the prolonged winter effects is if it lasted until the time pheasants would start reproducing.

Though pheasants can endure harsh climate changes throughout the year, Kohn said one change the birds will have a tough time dealing with is the dwindling amount of land in the Conservation Reserve Program.

“There’s probably a good chance that it’s going to happen,” Kohn said about pheasants dropping as CRP numbers decrease. “We are losing CRP acres and that’s a for sure. This year we have a lot of contracts that are coming out. Unfortunately, a fair numbers of those are south of the interstate, which encompasses our better pheasant range. As you start removing that good nesting and breeding cover from the landscape, you are certainly going to see some adjustments in the pheasant numbers.”

Robinson added: “That will impact the population going into the future. Even though we have a mild winter and a decent survival, going into the winter we didn’t have many birds as we’ve had in the past. We’re on a downhill trend right now in terms of our pheasant population.”