Bird Conservation photo

Continued habitat loss and bad weather during nesting season have taken a toll on upland gamebird populations in a number of midwest and plains states the past two years. How bad is it? The state of Iowa is now allowing landowners to release their own pen-raised pheasants into the wild in hopes of bolstering native populations.

From this story on Radio Iowa:
_Pheasant hunters who’ve had a hard time finding the birds now have a way to artificially improve their chances. Iowa Department of Natural Resources research biologist, Todd Bogenschutz, says the law changed July 1st to allow pheasants raised from chicks to be released. Bogenschutz says Iowans have always had the ability to raise wild game, but until the change, it was illegal to release the pen raised birds into the wild. Severe winters and wet springs have hurt the pheasant populations in recent years — and the number of birds taken dropped to record lows in 2008 and 2009.

__Bogenschutz doesn’t see a lot of landowners using the law to release birds so they can charge people to hunt on their land. He doesn’t anticipate many landowners releasing birds and charging hunters to go after them, as he says the registered shooting reserves fill that role already. Bogenschutz says it’s more beneficial for landowners who want more birds for friends and relatives, and some believe they can augment the wild pheasant population. Legislators and others hope the change in law will help increase the population of pheasants in the state.

Bogenschutz is skeptical adding new birds will help overcome the weather problems and loss of habitat that caused the decrease in the native bird population. “You know to think that pen-raised birds with no survival instincts or resources to bear on are gonna do any better if our native birds are struggling, you know, I think is a bit of a stretch,” Bogenschutz says,”it’s their money and if that’s what they want to do, then that’s their choice.” Bogenschutz says there shouldn’t be any concern about the pen-raised birds causing any disease in the native populations. He says the legislature tried to limit those concerns — as Iowa is a large poultry producing state — by requiring people to buy the birds from state approved hatcheries.

Hunters took 750,00 pheasants in 2006, that number dropped to a then record low of 383,000 in 2008 following two harsh winters and flooding. That was followed by another record low of 271,126 in 2009._

Your thoughts? Will things like releasing pen-raised birds bolster wild bird populations or is it one more sign that wild bird hunting in the midwest will eventually disappear like quail hunting has in the southeast, replaced by put-and-take shooting preserves and pen-raised birds?