Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Still places in state that can support wild pheasants

Tom VeneskyLast week I spent a day with Pennsylvania Game Commission land manager Keith Sanford trapping and banding doves in Montour and Northumberland counties. The area is filled with picturesque farms and sprawling fields of switchgrass enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The combination of cropland and reverting fields make the area a haven for farmland wildlife.

Based on what Sanford and I saw that morning, many of those species, such as deer, rabbits and songbirds are thriving in the area. Another appears poised to follow.

With the dove traps baited and set, Sanford and I went for a ride across the multitude of dirt roads that dominate the area. Along the way Sanford pointed out farms enrolled in CREP and how important the program is to the agency’s efforts to bring back the wild pheasant. For some of the farms, the CREP contract will expire soon.

If the landowners choose not to re-enroll hundreds of acres of prime wildlife habitat could be in jeopardy, he said.

One farm in particular provided a fitting example of just how much could be lost.

As we slowly drove along a dirt road in Turbot Township, Northumberland County, Sanford spotted something standing on a farm lane flanked by two lush cornfields. A young male pheasant – just starting to transform from the dull brown coloration into the vibrant colors of an adult, stood in the lane, which happened to be in the middle of the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area.

We watched, and then just several yards away a brood of young pheasants emerged from the towering corn. They were about the size of a chicken, probably six to eight weeks old, and they were skittish.

Once the entire brood emerged onto the lane, they noticed our vehicle and nervously darted back and forth before running toward the older male and back into the corn.

After a few minutes we backed onto the dirt road and made it several feet before another brood of seven juvenile pheasants emerged from the cornfield and made a bee-line to an overgrown field on the other side.

Less than a minute later, we made it about 50 yards down the road before another brood – this one with six young pheasants, was spotted nipping at insects in the tall grass between the road and cornfield.

Again, Sanford and I watched in appreciation.

“These are pure wild pheasants, which is what makes this exciting,” Sanford said as he peered through his binoculars. “This proves that where you have the habitat, you can have wild pheasants in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t a phenomena that ended in the 1970’s.

“There are still landscapes in this state that can support wild pheasants.”

And there is none better than the farmland in Montour and Northumberland counties.

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