IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Ring-neck pheasants are rebounding in Iowa after their populations were hurt in recent years by a stretch of harsh winters and drastically fewer conservation acres, according to wildlife officials.
A new wildlife survey by the state’s Department of Natural Resources show a 37 percent increase in Iowa’s ring-necked pheasants compared with 2014, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. That’s the highest count since 2007 and the second-straight year of growth.
The survey counts pheasants along 215, 30-mile stretches of Iowa roads in August. This year, the count averaged 24 pheasants per route. That compared with the all-time low set in 2013 of 6.5 birds per route.
But the state’s pheasant population remains just a fraction of what it was in past decades, officials said.
The Natural Resources Department says Iowa pheasant hunters are expected to kill between 300,000 and 500,000 rooster pheasants this year. That compares with nearly 200,000 bagged in 2014.
Until about a decade ago, Iowa had regularly seen more than a million pheasants killed by hunters a year, after peaking at nearly 2 million in the 1960s and 1970s.
“It’s in the right direction, but not to what is thought of as Iowa standards historically,” said Todd Bogenschutz, a department upland wildlife research biologist who helps conduct the annual roadside survey. “We’ve had bad weather and lost habitat, which has really hammered the population.”
In 1990, Iowa had 4.6 million acres of habitat, including 2.7 million acres of hay and grain fields, and 1.9 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program land. In 2013, the most recent year of data collected from U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 2.8 million acres of habitat, including 1.3 million acres of hay and grain and 1.5 million acres of CRP land.
Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen.