The Board of Game Commissioners gave final approval to a major change in pheasant hunting designed to be the first major step toward re-establishing wild pheasant populations in Pennsylvania.
Under the agency’s recently approved Ring-necked Pheasant Management Plan, the Game Commission calls for restoring self-sustaining and huntable populations of wild pheasants in suitable habitats called “Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas” (WPRAs), and defined as the Pike Run, Somerset and Central Susquehanna WPRAs. The agency will facilitate the release of wild-trapped pheasants into these areas, with a goal of achieving a density of 10 hen pheasants per square mile.
To give these wild pheasants the best opportunity to establish naturally reproducing populations, the Board has banned the release of any artificially propagated pheasants – including Game Commission raised pheasants –within these WPRAs. Also, to limit disturbances to nesting hen pheasants, dog training of any manner will be prohibited in these WPRAs from the end of small game season in early February through July 31 each year.
“Working with major partners, such as Pheasants Forever, the University of California and local landowners, we already have a jump-start on creating WPRAs,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “These groups have invested in creating the necessary pheasant habitat in three areas of the state. To make the best use of the agency’s resources, and with the support of these partners, we are going to establish these areas as the first WPRAs in the state.
“While we hope to identify more, the Game Commission will continue to raise and release pheasants on public lands with suitable pheasant habitat each fall. And, should we receive additional revenues, we plan to increase our pheasant production level to 250,000 birds, as noted in the Ring-necked Pheasant Management Plan.”
A native of Asia, pheasants were brought to North America back in the mid-1700s, but these early attempts to introduce pheasants to the continent were unsuccessful. It wasn’t until 1881, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, that pheasants first became established.
During the early 1890s, Pennsylvania citizens purchased pheasants from English gamekeepers and released them in Lehigh and Northampton counties. For several decades, many other small releases were made across the Commonwealth to establish pheasants for sport hunting.
In the early 1900s, the Game Commission set aside a special appropriation of funds to purchase and propagate game. Pheasant eggs were purchased and given to agency refuge keepers, sportsmen’s organizations and private individuals interested in raising pheasants. The first stocking of pheasants by the Game Commission occurred by 1915.
Habitat loss, from urban/suburban sprawl to changes in agricultural practices, had an impact on Pennsylvania’s naturally-reproducing pheasant populations. Additionally, budget constraints forced the Game Commission, in 2005, to reduce its annual pheasant stocking allocation from 200,000 to 100,000.
For more information on pheasants and the history of the agency’s pheasant management plan and propagation program, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), select “Hunting” then click on the photograph of the pheasant.