This information is the product of research conducted by many states and countries. It also represents conclusions of thousands of landowners who have tried pheasant stocking.
Does Pheasants Forever release birds?
No we do not. We are a 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 Pheasants Forever from financially supporting the release of pheasants for the gun.
Who releases pheasants in Alberta?
The Alberta Conservation Association is currently in charge of the Pheasant Release program in Alberta.
What kind of survival rate can be expected from pheasants stocked in the summer or fall at 8-14 weeks of age?
On average, only 60 percent will survive the initial week of release. After one month, roughly 25 percent will remain. Over-winter survival has been documented as high as 10 percent but seldom exceeds 5 percent of birds released.
That being the case, shouldn’t we close the hunting season to protect the newly-stocked birds?
For the most part, hunting has little to do with poor survival. Predators take the real toll, accounting for more than 90 percent of all deaths. The reason: pen-reared birds never had a chance to learn predator avoidance behavior. Starvation can also be a problem. Some newly-released pheasants take up to three weeks to develop optimal foraging patters essential to survival in the wild.
If predators are the problem, shouldn’t we eliminate more of them?
Reducing predator populations to levels where pheasant numbers can rise would involve astronomical costs. In addition, many predators are federally protected and cannot be harmed. Some pheasants will always be lost to predators, but well-designed habitat can reduce predation by up to 80 percent.
If over-winter survival is so poor, why not wait until spring to release breeder hens?
Mortality is still very high, and roughly 40 to 70 percent of the hens will perish before attempting to nest. Also, high mortality rates continue even after nests are initiated or eggs successfully hatched, resulting in dismally low production. Average production of spring-released hens ranges from 5 to 40 chicks per 100 hens released. Thus, released hens are not productive enough to replace their own losses.
In our area, survival must be higher. I see birds near the release site all the time. Can’t survival be different in different areas?
There often will be a few that make it, but studies have shown they are unable to maintain a population. This is why local stocking programs continue year after year. Ultimately we must ask ourselves why there is a need to repeat stocking efforts on an annual basis if survival is as high as often claimed.
Okay, maybe the survival rate isn’t very good, but isn’t minimal survival better than none at all?
Not necessarily. We’re concerned about a self-sustaining population that we won’t have to continually supplement with pen-raised birds. In order to remain at a constant level, wild pheasant populations must have a production rate of roughly four chicks (surviving to 10 weeks) per hen. With production rates of less than one chick per hen, a population would decline rapidly .
If stocking initially established pheasants in my province, why wouldn’t it work now?
When pheasants were first introduced, the landscape was far different from the one we have today. Farming techniques were primitive, field sizes smaller and crops more diversified. These habitat conditions created a situation ideally suited for the introduction of a farmland species like the ring-necked pheasant.
How much does it cost to raise a pen-reared pheasant?<
Anywhere from $3 to $15 a bird, depending on when they are released. If you think about it in terms of the cost for either surviving hens or roosters harvested, the figures are especially discouraging. Again, these figures assume maximum production .
Even if I’m not doing much good by releasing birds, what’s the real harm?
Though not proven, there is cause for concern. Genetic dilution may be occurring. Even with minimal survival, the release of thousands of pen-raised birds over many years may be diminishing the “wildness” of the wild stock. Another concern is that, by releasing hundreds of birds in a given area, predators may start keying on pheasants. This may result in wild birds incurring higher predation. Finally, there is the potential of disease transmission from released birds to the wild flock.
What if I just want to put a few more birds in the bag?
Simple enough. Release the birds as close to the time you want to hunt as possible. To do otherwise is a waste of money. Pen-raised birds do provide shooting opportunities and a chance to keep your dog in shape. Just keep in mind that these birds are not going to produce a wild self-sustaining population in your area.
Is there hope for areas with severely depressed pheasant populations?
Yes. Start by understanding pheasant habitat needs. What kinds of areas do pheasants nest in? What are optimal covers in which they survive harsh winters? How can these areas be created and preserved? We have wonderful pockets of habitat in Alberta, unfortunately these pockets are mostly segregated with little connectivity to each other. The answers can be learned from your local wildlife professionals. Consider becoming a Pheasants Forever member. Informative and educational articles on these and other subjects are part of every Pheasants Forever magazine. If you are serious about improving local habitat conditions, consider joining Pheasants Forever Calgary.
Okay, at least I know where to start, but can we realistically hope to see abundant wild pheasants again?
Yes. During the past 50 years there has been a colossal amount of money spent on supplemental stocking programs by local governments, sportsmen’s groups and private individuals. If these dollars would have been invested in habitat restoration, hundreds of species of wildlife in addition to pheasants would have been benefited. Here’s the bottom line: when habitat conditions improve, wild pheasant populations will increase in response to that habitat.