FWP seeks comment on draft EA for annual pheasant release
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: January 27, 2022

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment on a proposal for the annual release of pen-raised ring-necked pheasants on suitable state lands.

FWP has administered a pheasant release program since 1987, which has involved releasing pen-raised pheasants on private lands for population augmentation and increased hunting opportunity. In March of 2021, following legislative action and funding, a new pheasant release program was established to support recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts in Montana. This new component of the program aims to engage youth in the sport of hunting, promote hunter success and provide additional hunting opportunities for hunters of all ages.

Under this legislation, FWP will continue to develop and implement this program and release up to 50,000 pheasants annually on any suitable and eligible state-owned lands. Some releases will occur a few days before the youth pheasant season opener to maximize opportunity for youth hunters, and some releases could occur later in the months of October and November to increase hunting opportunities for hunters of all ages.

Pheasants released through the program are required to be stock from National Poultry Improvement Plan certified hatcheries that have tested negative for certain poultry diseases. Plans are underway for the State Prison in Deer Lodge to begin raising pheasants for this FWP program. FWP will provide funds for start-up costs for the prison to begin raising pheasants. The prison will provide pheasants only to FWP. If pheasants are not available from the prison in 2022, FWP may purchase birds from private producers.

In September 2021, the first season of this effort, FWP released 2,094 pheasants on seven WMAs in FWP Regions 3, 4, 5, and 7, prior to the youth pheasant season opener. The initial release resulted in good satisfaction for youth hunters who were hunting lands where birds were released.

To view the EA and provide comment, go online. Comments can also be emailed to doneill@mt.gov or sent to Fish, Wildlife & Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701, Attn: Deb O’Neill. Public comment will be accepted until Feb. 28.