Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Last pheasant farm faces uncertain fate

Ithaca, N.Y. – DEC’s last remaining pheasant-rearing facility
remains open, but may be in the crosshairs of those who see it as a
cost-cutting option that could save about $800,000.

DEC_Assistant Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
Doug Stang said the closure of the Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca
isn’t planned “at this time. Whether or not that’s true for next
year, I don’t know. It’s always tenuous.”

And DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, in a letter to state Assembly
members, was noncommittal as to the future of the pheasant-rearing
facility in Tompkins County.

“Pheasant stocking was critical to game bird hunting at a time
when wildlife habitat was severely limited by agricultural and
forestry practices that cleared the land and eliminated game bird
habitat,”_Grannis wrote in response to lawmakers who wrote in
support of the game farm and the state’s fish hatcheries.

“Today, however, due to changes in land use, grouse and turkey
hunting far surpass the opportunity provided by pheasant
stocking.”

Grannis was more supportive of the fish hatcheries, pointing to
several million dollars in improvements and additional work planned
“so that we may continue to produce fish for recreation and
population restoration purposes.”

The Reynolds Game Farm – the last of New York’s pheasant-rearing
facilities, which at one time numbered seven – has several times
been eyed for elimination. This year, however, with Gov. David
Paterson calling for widespread cuts within state agencies to
address a huge budget deficit, some are questioning whether it can
survive the push for a budget reduction of 10.35 percent.

“It’s an easy target, because it costs money,” Stang said. “So
do contracts. It’s a big ticket item and a target for those who
don’t like it. But it’s also used as a flagship by hunters and
anglers – even those who don’t hunt pheasants – as an example of
the kinds of things the department does for them.”

Stang added that if the game farm was proposed for elimination,
“the state Legislature has to buy into it. It can be put back by an
act of the Legislature.”

Indications are at this point that the pheasant farm has some
support in the state Assembly. Grannis’s comments came in response
to a letter from Assemblywoman Ginny Fields and Assemblyman Tim
Gordon, who urged DEC to keep the hatcheries and game farm in
operation. The letter carried with it the signatures of 50 other
state lawmakers.

The loss of the state’s last remaining pheasant farm would, in
many respects, put an end to pheasant hunting in New York. Wild
pheasants are limited primarily to the Lake Plains of western New
York and parts of Long Island, and the put-and-take opportunities
presented by the state’s pheasant-rearing program are, in many
cases, the only pheasant encounters offered to the state’s
hunters.

That said, hunter numbers have declined, and small-game hunting,
in particular, has been hardest hit. The state estimates that about
150,000 hunters pursued pheasants in the early 1980s; today, that
number is less than one-third of that.

Ring-necked pheasants were first introduced in New York in 1892
on Gardiner’s Island. In 1903, additional birds were released on
the Wadsworth estate near Geneseo, and pheasant numbers peaked in
the 1960s and early 1970s.

About 25,000 pheasants annually are raised at the Richard E.
Reynolds Game Farm for release across the state. In addition,
another 60,000 day-old pheasant chicks are distributed for rearing
through the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program to cooperating
sportsmen, and about 15,000 7- to 10-week old pheasants are
distributed to approved cooperators in June and July for release on
over 300 sites statewide.

The closure of the pheasant farm would impact youth hunting
opportunities, since it would essentially mean the end of the
state’s annual two-day Youth Pheasant Hunt, which occurs just prior
to the regular-season opening in the Northern and Southern zones. A
portion of the state-reared birds are released and made available
to youth during that season.

(To comment on this story, go to our Web site, which can be
found at www.nywww.outdoornews.com)

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