Drought worsens South Dakota pheasant population

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department survey has determined that the summer's drought influenced the state's declining pheasant population.

The department's annual survey released Friday shows a 45 percent decline statewide in the number of pheasants per mile compared to 2016. The survey also shows that 2017 is the second-lowest pheasants-per-mile index since 1979.

Senior game biologist Travis Runia says some areas were expected to see a decline due to the severe drought conditions. But he says he's surprised that eastern South Dakota saw a significant decline in bird numbers.

Runia says the biggest factor in the decline is habitat loss, which has made life more difficult for pheasants.

Runia says hunters should remember some of the state's public lands won't be ideal to find birds this year.

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