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Archive for Sunday, September 22, 2002

Thanks to drought, upland birds decline

September 22, 2002

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— The western third of Kansas and many northcentral counties near the Nebraska border have experienced record-breaking drought over the past year, and upland bird populations in those areas have plummeted below even the low levels reached in 2001.

At the same time, weather patterns moderated in much of central and eastern Kansas and were favorable for game bird production in many areas, particularly for bobwhite.

Hunters in these areas will see improvement, but bird populations are below average.

In northeast Kansas, both bobwhite and pheasant populations have shown modest improvement this year, but both started with extremely low breeding numbers so the outlook isn't promising.

Current population numbers for both species are below the five-year average. Fair numbers of bobwhite may be found in the best available habitats.

In Kansas, September cover was below average, particularly in the western and northern counties.

About 910,000 acres of Walk-In Hunting Areas are available for public hunting.

Severe drought prompted release of Conservation Reserve Program grasslands for emergency haying or grazing.

Kansas WIHA lands often contain CRP, and haying or grazing has occurred on some tracts throughout the state.

Cover conditions on CRP WIHA tracts in drought-stricken regions are reduced compared to normal.

Relatively poor habitat conditions in drought areas could diminish game bird survival as fall progresses.

Here's the statewide outlook for upland game birds by species:

Pheasant: Survey data indicate that Kansas' pheasant populations overall are at record low levels.

Bobwhite: Bobwhite experienced generally good reproductive success this summer and populations have rebounded somewhat from the very low levels of 2001, but bobwhite have only partially recovered, and numbers remain well below average.

Prairie chicken: Greater and lesser prairie chicken populations were modestly lower this spring compared to 2001. It is difficult to monitor these species during summer. Both species remain below long-term averages, due to declining habitat.

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