Pheasant Stockings Adjusted to Safeguard Pennsylvania’s Hunting Future Amid Avian Influenza Concerns

Pheasant© AdamFichna from Getty Images / Canva

PENNSLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Game Commission has announced changes to its late-season pheasant stocking schedule due to the recent detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at a private game farm in Northumberland County.

In an effort to protect the future of the state’s pheasant program and ensure its continuation through the 2024-25 hunting seasons, the Game Commission will be releasing fewer pheasants across the state than initially planned. For hunters in the eastern part of the state, the changes are more immediate: pheasant releases will occur only this week and not the next, essentially combining the final two releases of the year into one.

While these adjustments might seem minor, they play a critical role in reducing the risk of an HPAI outbreak, which could have potentially devastating impacts on pheasant hunting.

The recent HPAI detection occurred at Martz’s Game Farm in Northumberland County. Although the pheasants released by the Game Commission come from a different facility—Mahantongo Game Farm, where HPAI has neither been detected nor suspected—the close proximity of these farms raises concerns. An HPAI outbreak at Mahantongo Game Farm would require many or all of the breeding pheasants that stock the Game Commission’s program to be euthanized, putting the program’s future at risk.

To mitigate this risk, the Game Commission is taking precautionary measures. They plan to retain all the hen pheasants, along with about 5% of the roosters, that were scheduled for release in the final two pheasant releases of the 2023-24 season. If continued testing confirms that HPAI remains undetected at Mahantongo Game Farm, the pheasants there will be temporarily moved to the Game Commission’s Loyalsock Game Farm. This is why the counties served by Loyalsock will receive their final two releases all at once this week—the incoming pheasants need space.

The counties affected by this change include Adams, Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Centre, Columbia, Cumberland, Franklin (State Game Lands 235 only), Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wayne, Wyoming, and York.

Meanwhile, the remaining counties served by the Southwest Game Farm will see rooster-only pheasant releases continue as scheduled over the next two weeks.

Ian Gregg, Wildlife Operations Division Chief, acknowledged the inconvenience caused by these sudden adjustments. “This wasn’t a decision the Game Commission took lightly,” he said. “However, we believe this precautionary approach is the right thing to do because it will significantly reduce the risk of disease impacts that would be far more devastating to pheasant hunting in the long run.”

For hunters eagerly awaiting the late small game season pheasant releases, these changes might seem like a curveball. But they are a necessary step to ensure the future of pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania. As always, adaptability remains a key trait for every seasoned hunter.

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.