Demise of the monarch amidst plummeting pheasant populations in South Dakota

The state pheasant population has dropped by 45 percent since 2016 — 65 percent lower than the 10-year average. Results from hunting have mirrored the decline. In 2007, the estimated pheasant bag was more than 2 million birds. In 2017, it was just more than 1 million, according to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “Looking at the weather right now, we’re off to a record cold April,” said Travis Runia, senior upland game biologist for Game Fish and Parks. Many factors contribute to the last decade of pheasant decline, Runia said. One of those is extreme weather, such as droughts and harsh winters, but a large factor is the loss of Conservation Reserve Program land.

Since 2007, South Dakota has lost roughly 700,000 acres of its CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land due to the way it has been distributed by the government. Areas with highly erodible land are favored more than places like South Dakota, Runia said. CRP land is set aside by ranchers and farmers at the behest of the federal government to preserve the local wildlife population. In South Dakota, the land gives many species, including upland birds, deer and waterfowl, a suitable habitat.

Many different species of animals benefit from farm bill programs like CRP, including the monarch butterfly, said Eileen Dowd Stukel, wildlife diversity coordinator of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. In June 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether or not the monarch will be put on the endangered species list. To avoid the “demise of the monarch,” Stukel and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is working alongside other companies and Midwestern states on a monarch butterfly management plan. According to a draft of the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy, the most pressing issues facing the monarch are the loss of milkweed and nectar resources across the central United States, both of which are integral to monarch migration and reproduction.

Source: The Collegian, April 18, 2018…