pheasant

A road-killed rooster ringneck pheasant along Highway 60 is a casualty of heavy snow that has blanketed Minnesota’s pheasant range, forcing the birds to forage for food on road shoulders.

Life is never easy for a pheasant in Minnesota, but that is especially true during winters such as this one.

While pheasants are tough birds — research shows ringnecks can go without food for as long as two weeks — wildlife biologist Kurt Haroldson says the heavy snow and extreme cold across all of the state’s pheasant range is putting the birds under a lot of stress.

“They rely mainly on waste grains, and right now, they’re struggling to find it,” said Haroldson who works at the Department of Natural Resources’ Farmland Wildlife Research Unit near Madelia.

Without a significant change in the weather to open up patches on fields, he predicted there could be bird losses.

“Where there are food plots, the birds are doing fine, but the majority of the birds rely on finding waste grains. ... It becomes an energy imbalance where they’re expending more energy than they are taking in.”

Even at that, Haroldson said, pheasants rarely die directly from starvation. “They die by making stupid decisions. ... They get hungry and leave their cover and get whacked by predators.”

Severe winter conditions also make them vulnerable to getting struck by vehicles. “They scratch the bare ground just like a chicken, and right now, the only bare dirt is along the roadsides,” he said. “The fact we’re seeing so many birds along roads means the birds are getting stressed.”

To help pheasants weather the wintery conditions, the Blue Earth County Chapter of Minnesota Pheasants Inc. will be making free shelled corn available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday on the east side of the MinnStar Bank in Good Thunder.

Individuals are encouraged to bring their own containers since a limited supply will be available. For more details, visit www.mnpheasants.com .

Haroldson encouraged conservation groups and individuals to use the wintery conditions of late to help make future decisions about wildlife preservation.

“Conditions are ideal for club members to drive around and note where good cover remains — it is pretty obvious these days — to make future plans for locating things like food plots.”

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