Things aren’t looking good for wild pheasants in California, where populations of the colorful game birds have fallen to less than 10 percent of what they were in the late 1990s.
With pheasant hunting season opening Saturday, state officials note populations of the bird have fallen dramatically over the past 19 years.
Hunters reported shooting 4,828 pheasant roosters in 1998 on public lands in the Central Valley. But that number fell to 461 last year, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The state keeps track of pheasant numbers through hunting “harvest” reports.
The dearth of wild pheasants throughout the state is not limited to just California, though, said Jared Wiklund, a spokesman for Pheasants Forever, a nonprofit group that promotes pheasant hunting and habitat improvement for the birds.
“A lot of it is cyclical,” Wiklund said. “The rise and fall of pheasant populations nationwide is tied to grassland habitat.”
“There are other states out there that have gone through it,” Wiklund said.