While pheasant numbers are still slightly down across South Dakota, Aberdeen is one area that has shown a surprising and welcome increase this year as compared to 2018.
The amount of pheasants per mile has gone up in the Hub City area, but not significantly, according to an annual pheasant brood survey report conducted by Travis Runia, senior upland game biologist for the state Game, Fish and Parks department.
Areas near Sisseton and in western South Dakota have also seen increases in brood numbers. All other areas of the state experienced a decline, most significantly near Pierre, Mobridge, Huron, Mitchell and Brookings.
Compared to the 10-year average, the count is still down by 43 percent statewide, the report said.
The fact that Aberdeen saw a 46 percent increase in pheasant population index came as a surprise, according to Runia’s report. That’s because the weather conditions here were generally similar as compared to adjacent areas that saw large decreases, like as Mobridge, which was down 49 percent, and Huron, down 29 percent.
However, the bulk of the increase near Aberdeen came from a single route of the 14 that are studied for the survey in the area, according to Runia’s report. That route was not identified in the report.
Throughout South Dakota, the decline in overall pheasant population has been modest compared to last year, and was expected, after historic winter snowfall and spring and summer precipitation patterns, the report said.
Flooded areas are also likely to have affected the survey numbers, as less pheasants were observed using roadside habitats. Still, seven of the 13 local areas surveyed experienced nearly no change in pheasant count.