Nine more wild pheasants captured recently on a Native American reservation in Montana have been released in Franklin County in hopes a self-sustaining wild pheasant population will take hold there.
Game Commission staff, along with members of the organization Pheasants Forever, released the birds March 13 at a farm near Mercersburg in the Franklin County Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA).
The release was the second in a week within the Franklin County WPRA. On March 9, 58 Montana ringnecks and four that were born wild in Pennsylvania were released.
The initial release marked the first time the Franklin County WPRA received wild pheasants. Although the Franklin County WPRA was established in 2011 and was slated to receive its first pheasants in 2012, Pennsylvania had been unable in recent years to obtain wild pheasants for release into any of its four WPRAs.
A partnership formed this year between the Game Commission, Pheasants Forever and the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana ended the drought and led to the first releases of wild pheasants in Pennsylvania in three years.
Following the releases, 71 wild pheasants have been placed into the Franklin County WPRA.
Sen. Richard Alloway II, R-Chambersburg, said he's hopeful the releases provide a springboard for wild pheasant recovery in southcentral Pennsylvania.
"The wild pheasant population has been a serious concern for sportsmen and conservationists alike," said Alloway, who chairs the state Senate Game and Fisheries Committee. "The Game Commission deserves a great deal of credit for taking this important step toward helping the population recover to sustainable levels."
Game Commission staff and Pheasants Forever members hope the releases might represent the first of many that result from the partnership with the Crow Indian Reservation.
The Franklin County 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.
With the releases into the Franklin County WPRA, all four of Pennsylvania's WPRAs have received pheasants. 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.