New York’s pheasant program gets the ax

Although rumors of this have been circulating for some time, they were put to rest this past week when the DEC announced it had verbally been told by the State administration to close their last remaining pheasant rearing facility, Reynolds Game Farm, located near Ithaca. The closing is reportedly part of the major budget cutting measures being implemented by the State. The anticipated fiscal year savings created by the closure would be about $708K.

On average. Reynolds has been annually raising 25,000 adult pheasants, 15,000 young pheasants, and t least 60,000 day-old chicks. All were to be eventually released on public accessible lands. A few years ago, New York had two pheasant rearing facilities, but , again, budget restraints forced one to close, and Reynolds became the lone public facility in the state. Now even it will probably cease operating.

The Reynolds Farm has been in operation since 1927, and as previously stated, since 1999 has been the sole facility supporting the statewide pheasant program. The DEC is attempting to identify viable alternatives for orderly execution of the directive, though the short notice and lateness of the season will make this a very difficult task. It is also trying to match staff reassignments up as best it can with the Reynolds staff’s interests and Division needs.

Several of us have anticipated something like this occurring for several years, and prior to the state’s budget woes. Why? Pen-reared pheasants released into the wild just don’t do well. For starters, they’re an imported species from the Far East, and like quail, have a tough time surviving harsh weather and native predation. So basically, the State stocked them primarily to be harvested by hunters. Little or no natural propagation occurred after they were released. Many more mature people probably remember when pheasants seemed to be everywhere, and pheasant hunting was one of the most popular outdoor activities each fall. But that was decades ago, and a lot has happened since then. In particular, environmental changes that were highly negative to pheasant survival and natural propagation. In the heydays, the vast majority of the once primary pheasant rage, including our area, was almost exclusively agricultural. There were fields, hedgerows and low-growing cover habitat that sustained the birds. There were also fewer predators. But the abandoning of family farms and farmlands began the death toll for the pheasant. As ideal habitat shrunk, so, too, did the pheasant populations.

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