Wild pheasants trapped in Idaho and four other western states will be released in the Magic Valley and Upper Snake Regions this winter, part of a plan to try to rebuild ringneck numbers in southern Idaho.
Fish and Game is changing the way it deals with pheasant populations in the wake of discussions with legislators who represent areas that have lost pheasant hunting opportunity over the last 20 years. Rather than spending all effort and money on pheasant habitat with a small number of roosters being planted on Wildlife Management Areas during the hunting season, the new approach includes planting of wild and game farm birds as well as continuing to work on habitat.
The department plans to obtain several hundred pheasants from trapping operations in eastern Oregon, Utah, central Washington, the Sacramento Valley of California and several locations in western Idaho. So far, weather conditions have been too mild to catch pheasants easily, but biologists still hope to come up with enough wild birds for the project. If they cannot, game farm birds will be substituted.
The wild birds and the game farm pheasants will be planted in locations determined by Fish and Game with the help of advisory committees in the Magic Valley and Upper Snake Regions. About 600 game farm pheasants will be released in the same selected areas as the wild birds.
All released birds will be banded. Radio collars will be attached to 160 wild birds and more than 100 game farm birds to help document their movements, survival and nesting success.
In addition to those releases, Fish and Game plans to purchase and release 12,500 game farm roosters this fall, more than doubling the number released in recent years. They will be released on seven Wildlife Management Areas, selected BLM Wildlife Tracts and other sites selected by the advisory committees.
Fish and Game will also provide day-old chicks to Idahoans who request them. The chicks will come with advice on how to raise and release them.
During April, predators will be removed from pheasant habitat at C. J. Strike Wildlife Management Area, then about 200 game farm pheasants will be released. Survival and nesting success will be monitored.
Habitat will be improved with completion of 200 existing projects done in cooperation with private landowners.
In all, pheasant releases will cost an estimated $150,000 while habitat projects will cost about $150,000. About $250,000 will come from the upland habitat stamp account with the additional funds split between license and federal sources.