More on the California Pheasant Crash

Ed Smith has a long history with pheasants and he is one of the most knowledgeable people in the country when it comes to producing pheasants. We spoke by phone today and he commented on the current pheasant decline.

According to Ed, the spring of 2008 was the driest on record and the record goes back to 1919. With no recordable rainfall after March 1, 2008 the lack of moisture assured that all pheasant nesting failed, unless aided by irrigation. 

At Little Dry Creek, Ed and the refuge staff managed several brood strips and they were productive, but brood strips are labor intensive and therefore cost prohibitive on public lands on a large scale.

Ed’s method of creating brood strips is very effective. He has worked with land managers in other states (Montana for one) as well with clear success. We have modified his program on our farm to fit our limitations.

In a nutshell, the brood strip is created by clearing annual grasses (disking, flooding or spraying herbicides) and then creating a method to irrigate the strip to promote insect life. The pheasants nest near the strips and the chicks live along the strip during the first critical months of their life cycle. During this time frame they are dependent upon insects for food and overhead cover from broad leaf plants to minimize predation by birds of prey.

For more detailed information about creating brood strips give Ed a call. He will be very happy to hear from you. His number is (530)868-1313.

One thought on “More on the California Pheasant Crash

  1. Thanks again, Rich, for providing all this great info and focusing on the pheasant topic. Excellent work and much appreciated.

    Your first post was illuminative about the situation on private land and why pheasants are struggling on CA farms.

    My next question has to do with public land: I’ve heard anecdotal reports about how low and awful the pheasant take was this year at the state’s wildlife areas, some all-time lows in some places, apparently, which would reflect the record dry spring in 2008 you mention.

    However, the pheasant harvest has been dropping dramatically on our state and national wildlife refuges for several years now — in dry springs and wet springs — in areas that are supposed to be managed more or less exclusively for wildlife. Just look at the steeply declining pheasant harvests at Gray Lodge the past decade or so, once one of the premier wild pheasant areas in the West.

    Why are wild pheasant populations shrinking so dramatically on our public wildlife areas?

    Are these being managed more for waterfowl today than in the past? Are wild pheasants now concentrated on this good habitat, making them more susceptible to predation? Do they need better habitat on the surrounding private farmland? Is mosquito spraying wiping out most of the insects the chicks need?

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