The Habitat Organization

Pheasants Forever Calgary is a nonprofit local chapter of Pheasants Forever Canada Inc., dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant and other wildlife populations in southern Alberta. It was formed in 1993 by six Albertans who were passionately concerned with the declining upland bird populations on the prairies. Now 600+ members strong, we are one of southern Alberta’s leaders in upland wildlife habitat conservation and Habitat restoration and enhancement projects not only enhance wildlife habitat, they benefit our environment by improving water quality and reducing soil erosion. To accomplish its goals, PF Calgary has aligned itself with a long list of like-minded partners,spanning industry and conservation organizations, corporations, private foundations, individuals and various government agencies.  The primary aim of the chapter is to increase upland game birds and other wildlife populations in southern Alberta by enhancing the quantity and quality of wildlife habitat. increase the amount of influenced habitat acres for the benefit of wildlife. This strategy allows all partners to achieve environmental milestones far greater than what any one organization could accomplish alone.

OUR MISSION

Pheasants Forever (PF) is dedicated to the conservation of pheasants and other wildlife by restoring and enhancing the upland wildlife landscape, by promoting sound land management principals through land purchases and leasing opportunities, and through public awareness and education.

Does Pheasants Forever release birds?
No we do not. We are known as the habitat organization and are prohibited by our objects of the society from doing so. Many of our members support pheasants “released for the gun”, however Canada Revenue Agency’s guidelines prohibit PF from financially supporting the release of pheasants for the gun.

THE HISTORY OF UPLAND GAME BIRDS AND PHEASANTS FOREVER IN ALBERTA

  • Eight native upland game bird species. Alberta had the greatest variety of native grouse species in the world in 1905, Blue grouse, Spruce grouse, Ruffed grouse, Willow ptarmigan, White-tailed ptarmigan, Pinnated grouse, Sharp-tailed grouse and Greater Sage grouse.
  • Two species introduced by sportsmen in Alberta: the Chinese ring-necked pheasant and the European gray partridge (the “Hun”)
  • The first release site of the partridge was just south of the Midnapore area of Calgary in 1908 on the Patton and Hamilton ranches by Messrs. Winter, Green and Wood.
  • 1913 saw the first hunting season for the hun in Alberta.
  • Winter and associates received word of sightings of birds in Saskatchewan and Montana.
  • The hun experiment was extremely successful and formed the basis for the successful introduction to North America.
  • The same group of sportsmen introduced the ring-necked pheasant in 1908 around the same areas that the “hun” was introduced. Pheasants continued to be released over the next 25 years and it wasn’t until the “30’s” that they became well established.
  • The first pheasant season occurred in 1939 where two day, 6 bird limits was established.
  • During the 1940’s and 1950’s the pheasant numbers exploded. The average annual harvest in the mid “50’s” was 145,000 birds. By the 90’s the annual harvest was down to less than 20,000 birds where it remains today.
  • Pheasants Forever is dedicated to the conservation of upland wildlife through habitat improvement, public awareness and education and land management that benefits farmers and wildlife alike.
  • PF, commonly called “The Habitat Organization” is a non profit conservation organization founded in 1982 in response to the continuing decline of the Chinese ring necked pheasant
  • An experimental hen pheasant season in 1967, demonstrated that hunting hens had no effect on subsequent pheasant production. Hunting simply removes a portion of the birds that normally would have died during the winter (winter mortality is in the range of 60% – 80%, with or without hunting
  • As a result of this experiment, a limited hen season was introduced in 1971. It proved to be so unpopular with hunters that it was closed in 1973.
  • The popularity of hunting pheasants led to an interest from several entrepreneurs and the Game Act of 1955 included provisions to allow private individuals to rear pheasants for sale as food or for subsequent breeding purposes
  • By 1970, the New Wildlife Act contained provisions for the operation of Pheasant Shooting Grounds, the forerunner of current Game Bird Shooting Grounds
  • In the 1970’s, hunting success on pheasant roosters the day following their release was tested. Return rates ranged from 65-75% and were considered very cost effective. As a consequence, the Brooks hatchery expanded to become the Brooks Wildlife Center in 1978. The Center was able to produce up to 100,000 pheasants a year for release to the wild. Most of the cocks and melanistic pheasants of both sexes were used for put and take releases on Buck for Wildlife properties. By charging a separate fee for pheasant hunting licenses some of the costs were covered; however, in the mid 1990’s Fish and Wildlife could no longer provide sufficient funding and no longer felt the need to operate the facility. Under the banner of privatization, the Center was sold eventually to private investors who created the Canadian Pheasant Company with the provision that some of the birds produced would continue to be released for public hunting.
  • PF Calgary was formed in 1992 by a small group of dedicated sportsmen in response to the continuing decline of the Chinese ring necked pheasant and other upland game bird populations. It has grown to be one of the largest chapters in all of North America based on membership and monies raised for upland habitat restoration.

Excerpts taken from Fish, Fur & Feathers by the Fish and Wildlife Historical Society

Why pheasant populations are down.

  • Factors that have influenced the decline in upland wildlife (pheasant) habitat over the past 50 years:
    1. irrigation canal restoration and repairs throughout southern Alberta’s irrigation districts
    2. farming methods influenced by increased demand for higher agricultural production through:
    3. the decline of family farmsteads
    4. the subdivision of prime farmland
    5. the clearing of brush and trees
    6. the removal of field shelterbelts
    7. the drainage of wetlands
    8. the growth of the oil and gas industry
    9. the increase in the number of cattle raised through mixed farming and the subsequent over-grazing of shelterbelts and creek and coulee bottomlands
    10. the centralization of the school system with increased need for buses led to the removal of roadside vegetation
    11. the back-sloping of roads
    12. the burning of railroad grades
    13. the increased use of herbicides and pesticides
    14. weather/drought
    15. predation

The Partners in Habitat Development (PHD) Program

  • The largest and most successful habitat initiative of the Calgary Chapter was the Partners in Habitat Development program (PHD). Founded in 1998 by PF Calgary and the Eastern Irrigation District (EID) located in Brooks, the program helped to redevelop and enhance wildlife habitat throughout the cultivated regions of southern Alberta, primarily on privately-held land. Six of the largest irrigation districts in southern Alberta participated in the program representing over 1.1 million acres of land. Over 300 landowners (on over 500 different project sites) have invited the PHD program to implement planting, fencing and irrigation canal rehabilitation projects on their land to help increase the quality and quantity of wildlife habitat. Between 1998 and 2009, the PHD program had positively influenced over 35,000 acres of upland wildlife habitat by planting over 735,000 trees and shrubs, seeded 800 acres to permanent grass cover, installed over 147 kilometers of fencing on 140 projects, installed 43 water deliveries to enhance or create 15 wetland basins. To date over $4,200,000 had been apportioned to habitat projects by PHD in Southern Alberta.