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Montana Pheasants In Pennsylvania

With transplanted birds, Pennsylvania could soon see hunting. (Courtesy Pheasants Forever) With transplanted birds, Pennsylvania could soon see hunting. (Courtesy Pheasants Forever)

By: Pennsylvania Game Commission

Pheasants aren't known to fly long distances.

But 58 Montana ringnecks recently took flight to Pennsylvania, albeit by airplane, and were among the first wild pheasants ever released into what is known as the Franklin County Wild Pheasant Recovery Area.

Four Pennsylvania-born pheasant roosters, which were trapped in and transferred from the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, were released alongside the Montana birds to provide for a balanced sex ratio of the birds released.

Prior to Sunday's release, it had been three years since Pennsylvania had placed wild pheasants into any of the state's Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, which aim to restore to the state self-sustaining populations of wild ring-necked pheasants that eventually can be hunted.

States like South Dakota, which initially provided wild ringnecks to Pennsylvania as part of the restoration program, have been reluctant to part with their own wild stock because of overall declines in their wild pheasant populations.

Until recently, it looked as if 2014 would mark another year in which the trend would continue.

However, the Pennsylvania Game Commission in late January received permission from a Native American tribe in Montana to trap and transport wild pheasants as part of the program.

In addition to the 58 Montana pheasants that have been released, about 10 more Montana pheasants have been trapped and are slated to be shipped to Pennsylvania and released within the Franklin County WPRA in the coming days.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough acknowledged the difficulty in recent years of securing wild pheasants from other states for release into Pennsylvania's WPRAs. He thanked those involved in this year's wild-pheasant stocking for their dedication and cooperation in the effort.

"Organizations like Pheasants Forever deserve much thanks, as does the Crow Indian Reservation, the trapping crew that traveled to Montana to secure the birds, and Game Commission staff and our Board of Game Commissioners for their resolve to locate wild pheasants that could be brought here for release," Hough said. "With the release into the Franklin County WPRA, all four of Pennsylvania's WPRAs now have received wild birds at least once. Hopefully these Montana birds will find their new home to their liking."

The Franklin County WPRA was established in 2011, and was initially slated to receive wild pheasants in early 2012. The WPRA is located in the southwestern part of Franklin County and centers roughly on the borough of Mercersburg. U.S. Route 30 forms the WPRA's northern border, and the WPRA runs south to the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Franklin County WPRA is among four that have been established in Pennsylvania. Pheasants previously have been released into the Central Susquehanna WPRA, which is located in parts of Northumberland, Montour, Columbia and Lycoming counties; the Somerset WPRA in Somerset County; and the Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties.

Only trapped-and-transferred wild pheasants are introduced into a WPRA, given their heightened chances for survival in the wild, compared to propagated birds.

There is no open season for taking pheasants in any Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, and releases of propagated pheasants also are prohibited there. Training dogs and hunting small game other than woodchucks, waterfowl and crows are prohibited within a WPRA from the first Sunday in February to July 31.

The Game Commission seeks the public's help in making WPRAs more successful. Pheasant success within any WPRA relies on the availability of adequate nesting and wintering habitat, and privately held land accounts for most of the acreage within the WPRAs. Those who are interested in creating or enhancing pheasant habitat on land they own can contact the Game Commission's WPRA biologist Colleen DeLong at 570-380-0833, or contact their local Pheasants Forever chapter.

The public also can help to monitor the success of WPRAs by calling the Game Commission if they see pheasants - especially hens or chicks - within a WPRA, or calling the phone number on leg bands of any dead pheasants they might find within a WPRA.

People also are asked to leave pheasant nests within WPRAs undisturbed and to avoid mowing grassy or brushy habitat there.

For more information on WPRAS, visit the Game Commission's website, www.pgc.state.pa.us, and select, "Hunting under the "Hunt/Trap" tab, then select "Pheasant" under the "Small Game" header. Maps and other information on Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas are available.

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