Early snowfall, flooding hurt this year's pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania, New Jersey

The Rockport Pheasant Farm in Warren County, N.J., has 35 acres of range pens. Heavy snow in late October did severe damage to the facility, where about 55,000 birds were kept.
The Rockport Pheasant Farm in Warren County, N.J., has 35 acres of range pens. Heavy snow in late October did severe damage to the facility, where about 55,000 birds were kept. (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)
Posted: November 29, 2011

Pity the pheasants. Many of them didn't even make it to hunting season this year.

In Pennsylvania, tens of thousands drowned or escaped when Lycoming County game farms were flooded in September following Tropical Storm Lee.

In New Jersey, thousands of others absconded or were killed when farm pens collapsed under the weight of a heavy snow that blanketed Warren County on Oct. 29.

Large numbers of birds in both states were later recaptured, and farms damaged by severe weather either have been refurbished or are undergoing repairs.

At least 30,000 pheasants have been taken to state Wildlife Management Areas across New Jersey, including sites in Glassboro, Millville, Winslow, and Medford.

"There will be plenty of pheasants to hunt," said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The state's hunting season continues though Saturday and picks up again Dec. 12 and 13, Dec. 15 to 31, and Jan. 2 to Feb. 20.

But the late pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania - set for Dec. 26 to Feb. 4 - has been canceled, officials said.

"Prior to the flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, Game Commission game farms were on track to have more than 104,000 ring-necked pheasants for release on public lands throughout the commonwealth," said the agency's executive director, Carl G. Roe.

"Unfortunately, floodwaters that wreaked havoc for tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians also destroyed pheasant holding fields at the Loyalsock and Northcentral Game Farms in Lycoming County."

As many as 40,000 birds "either perished in floodwaters or escaped when the netting and fencing providing containment for holding fields were swept away," said Roe, adding that more than 10,000 had been recovered.

Two other agency sites - the Western Game Farm in Crawford County and the Southwestern Game Farm in Armstrong County - were unaffected by floodwaters.

"We regret not being able to stock pheasants for the popular late season," Roe said, "but the large number of hens lost at the Loyalsock farm, coupled with the need for an increased number of hens for full production next year, left us no choice."

Foul weather took its toll on New Jersey's pheasants, too.

"We've recovered thousands of birds but many thousands more remain unaccounted for," Hajna said. "We are still evaluating the impact on [future] stockings."

The affected birds had been at the Rockport Pheasant Farm, a Warren County site operated by the state Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The 35 acres of range pens were heavily damaged by the Oct. 29 snow despite efforts by game farm staff to prepare for the storm.

The farm is within the 1,202-acre Rockport Wildlife Management Area. About 55,000 birds were being kept there at the time of the snow.

"So far, repairs have been limited to pens that were still holding birds at the time of the snowstorm to prevent them from escaping," Hajna said.

The state's pheasant program provides outdoor recreation for about 15,000 hunters, officials said.

The program generates $2.6 million in income to local businesses such as gas stations, motels, diners, taxidermists, and sporting goods stores, officials said.

The cost of raising pheasants is borne completely by the hunters who purchase Pheasant/Quail Stamps to participate in the program.

State workers have been moving the pheasants from the Rockport facility to 24 Wildlife Management Areas throughout New Jersey, as well as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

But officials said they might not be able to stock as many on weekdays as in previous years.


Contact staff writer Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or ecolimore@phillynews.com.


 

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