By NORA HERTEL and KEVIN BURBACH Associated Press
PIERRE, South Dakota — South and North Dakota officials are reminding residents not to mow in some medians and highway ditches until mid-July to protect the pheasant population.
Mowers are asked to wait until July 10 in South Dakota and July 15 in North Dakota, due to the later growing season.
The matter was discussed by the South Dakota governor's pheasant habitat work group this month. The panel was established because the state bird is threated with habitat loss.
Pheasant hunters spent an estimated $172.5 million in South Dakota in 2012, according to national data cited by state officials.
Tony Leif, director of the South Dakota Division of Wildlife, said roadside ditches provide nesting cover for the animals. Early mowing puts young broods at risk.
This time of year hens nest and hatch broods, which are vulnerable to mowing equipment because of limited mobility. The birds tend to hide when threatened, rather than take flight.
State research indicates hay mowing equipment is responsible for a significant number of pheasant deaths in June and July.
Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist in North Dakota's Wildlife Division said a declining pheasant population is a problem in North Dakota as well, where the birds are nesting now. He said they likely have had to nest a second time, because of the cold, wet weather.