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Mowing Delayed In Dakota States to Protect Pheasants

Jun 19, 2014 11:05 AM EDT

The mowing of some medians and highway ditches in South and North Dakota has been delayed so that local pheasant populations can be given ample time to increase their numbers.

Contract and private mowing parties have been asked to hold off mowing some parts of the state until July 10 in South Dakota and July 15 in North Dakota, letting tall grasses serve as temporary pheasant habitats, the Associated Press reports.

Tony Leif, the Division of Wildlife Director for the South Dakota Departments of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), told the Tri-State Neighbor that while it may seem trivial, this is an important protection plan for pheasants that would normally not have ample nesting cover in parts of the state not enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

"This is especially important this year due to the drop in bird numbers we experienced last year. Our department is asking for the public's consideration in delaying haying and mowing activities within roadside ditches and we want to thank individuals in advance for their help in protecting and sustaining the state's pheasant population," he said.

In North Dakota, the restriction is simply a request, with no consequences if ignored.

However, this is more of a temporary law than a suggestion in South Dakota. Violation of the administrative ruling to delay mowing could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor, according to state records.

This is all being done in the interest of protecting pheasant populations in the state. GFP data collected between 2004 and 2011 revealed a notable drop in South Dakota pheasant populations as rural communities continued to grow.

According to the report, as their nesting habitats shrink, the birds are drawn to high roadside grasses. Mowing late June and early July can disrupt nesting endeavors, and potentially strike hens and their newly hatched chicks.

The AP notes that in 2012, hunters spent an estimated $172.5 million in South Dakota on pheasant hunting. To continue supporting this lucrative sport, South and North Dakota must protect and encourage large pheasant populations - something that would prove increasingly difficult without mowing delays in place.

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