Pennsylvania pheasant chick, egg programs come to an end
Two long-running programs that enabled groups and individuals to raise pheasants for release in their local areas have come to an end due to financially driven changes to the Game Commission’s pheasant propagation program.
The Pheasant Chick Program, started in 1933, provided day-old pheasant chicks free of charge to sportsmen’s organizations with approved propagation facilities. And the Day-Old Pheasant Hen Chick and Surplus Egg Programs enabled properly permitted organizations and individuals to buy chicks and eggs to raise and release.
Each of the programs served to augment the pheasant releases the Game Commission conducts each year before and during the pheasant hunting season. The birds that went to sportsmen’s organizations were released on lands open to public hunting.
In an effort to cut costs, however, the Game Commission is implementing changes to its pheasant propagation program. The agency recently announced the closure of two pheasant farms, and will rely on the remaining two farms for all production. In closing the farms, the agency has also released birds that would have been kept as breeding stock.
Rather than raising chicks from the eggs laid by these birds, the agency will purchase day-old chicks from a privately owned breeder, and raise those birds for release.
Purchasing chicks is more cost-effective. And in making the switch and eliminating 14 positions that had been held by game-farm workers, the agency expects to save $1.5 million in the coming year.
The Board of Game Commissioners also is discussing creation of a $25 permit that would be required for all adult pheasant hunters, and would further help pay for Pennsylvania’s propagation program.
The application period for pheasant egg and chick programs traditionally opened in January.
Organizations and individuals that had planned on taking part in the program in 2017 might still be able to obtain pheasant eggs from private propagators.
Unlike most state agencies, the Pennsylvania Game Commission in not funded by tax dollars. It relies primarily on revenue generated through the purchase of hunting and furtaker licenses – the fees for which are set by the General Assembly and have not been adjusted for inflation in nearly two decades.
“Cost-cutting measures, like the changes we’re implementing to the pheasant propagation program are necessary to balance the agency’s budget until a license-fee increase finally is approved,” said R. Matthew Hough, the Game Commission’s executive director. “We’ve had to make a lot of difficult decisions in recent years, and a lot of them probably went unnoticed because initially we cut in areas we knew would have the least impact on those who rely on the services we offer. But as we’re forced to make bigger and more significant cuts at the program level, there’s no avoiding the impact to services. Unfortunately, more cuts will be needed to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year, and Pennsylvania’s citizens and wildlife resources have begun feeling the impact.”