2022 Berggren Plan Web

Access digital copies of guides and regulations publications from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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Page 7 of 63

8 PHEASANTS IN NEBRASKA: AN OVERVIEW The ring-necked pheasant's tenure in Nebraska has surpassed the century mark, with the first reports of the species occurring around 1900 (Mathison and Mathison 1960)� In 1911, the state legislature, for the first time, allocated funds to help establish the pheasant in suitable habitat across the state (Shafer 2011)� Pheasants quickly became one of the most recognizable and culturally important wildlife species to the state's citizens� Communities throughout rural Nebraska have enjoyed the economic and social activity associated with pheasant hunting since the 1920s, and perhaps no other event has intermingled rural and urban Nebraskans (as well as those from other states) together as effectively as the opening day of pheasant season� The cultural traditions surrounding pheasant hunting were forged during the peak of pheasant abundance in the state� Following their introduction in the early 1900s, pheasant numbers peaked in the late 1940s, and have generally declined since� Pheasants harvested and hunter numbers have followed this same trend, and the benefits to rural communities generated by pheasant hunting have also been greatly reduced� Although weather events and fluctuations in the distribution and abundance of predators have no doubt influenced this downward trend in pheasant numbers, there is little doubt that changes in land use practices have had more impact on pheasant populations than any other set of factors� During the period of peak pheasant abundance in the 1940s and 1950s, diverse agricultural operations were the norm, with each operation often consisting of small fields of grain and hay crops interspersed with pasture and idle ground (Taylor et al� 1978)� This production system generated, by happy accident, nearly perfect conditions for sustaining high pheasant densities, providing good nesting, brood-rearing, escape, and winter habitats within close proximity� Currently, only parts of southwest and south-central Nebraska, as well as parts of the Panhandle, approximate these habitat configurations� However, as agricultural technology advanced and markets became more globalized over time, land uses within the pheasant range became more efficient and less diverse� Field sizes grew, idle land became scarce, and weed control became more effective� Wheat, which once provided important pheasant nesting habitat throughout Nebraska's farmlands, has become much less common� As a result, pheasants no longer are a reliable by-product of cropland agriculture, and their numbers have predictably declined (Taylor et al�1978)� Clearly, the circumstances that once supported high pheasant densities have all but disappeared in today's agricultural landscapes�

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