CDFW and Partners Investigate Decline in Pheasant Population

pheasantThe California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently hosted a pheasant ecology workshop to examine possible causes of a decline of the state’s pheasant population over the last 25 years.

Held in cooperation with Pheasants Forever, the workshop convened more than 45 state and federal scientists, public and private land managers, and representatives from Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association.

Participants reviewed research from scientists at the US Geological Survey and heard from pheasant experts from across the nation. Data collected showed that contributing factors to the decline include changes in agricultural practices, growth of forested habitats in historic wetland and grassland environments, climate change and predation from increasing raven populations.

“The combination of modern analysis tools and on-the-ground land management techniques helped us chart a map forward, which is especially important during the drought,” said CDFW Upland Game Program Scientist Matt Meshriy. “We look forward to collaborating with Pheasants Forever and other conservation partners interested in this species.”

The workshop, held on April 30 and May 1, included presentations by Dr. Les Flake of South Dakota State University and Senior Research Biologist Dave Musil of Idaho Fish and Game. CDFW managers from six state wildlife areas and federal partners from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complexes also presented reports on site-specific conditions that described the breadth of habitat challenges facing pheasants and other upland nesting bird species throughout the state.

Pheasants were introduced in California in the 1890s and adapted well in the agricultural regions of the state. By the mid-1960s, about 250,000 hunters were spending about 800,000 days afield in pursuit of this game bird. Since the mid-1990s, populations have been steadily declining. In 2010, only about 30,000 pheasant hunters spent about 100,000 days afield.

Pheasants Forever is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since its creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $577 million on 475,000 habitat projects benefiting 10 million acres nationwide.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, Wildlife Branch, Upland Game Program, (916) 801-6257

Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908