The number of pheasants in Minnesota has dropped significantly, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
A DNR roadside count estimates this year's likely take at 246,000 pheasants, down about 15 percent from last year. As recently as six years ago, hunters took 655,000.
The DNR's annual roadside count found 29 percent fewer pheasants this year compared to last year, and nearly 70 percent below the 10-year average.
Researchers say the region's long winter and cold, wet spring caused the downturn. The harsh winter killed off some hens, and then the difficult spring weather was fatal to some newly-hatched pheasants. The decrease means hunters will take fewer birds this fall.
"We got a lot of snow, which adversely impacts pheasants' ability to find food and cover," said Marrett Grund, head of the department's farmland wildlife populations and research group. "That would have impacted the number of adult pheasants that were out there, which would have been able to reproduce."
As a result, DNR officials estimate this year's likely take by hunters at 246,000 pheasants, down about 15 percent from last year. As recently as six years ago, hunters took 655,000.
While the weather hurt this year, DNR officials say their major concern over the long term is loss of habitat. With the amount of grasslands in the state shrinking, pheasants have fewer areas to nest.