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Many state natural resource agencies release ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) for hunting, but the effectiveness of these programs has never been evaluated on a statewide basis. We conducted a reward-band study to estimate harvest, reporting, and survival rates of pheasants raised and released by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) for the fall 1998 hunting season. We banded 6,770 of 199,613 released pheasants with leg bands worth $0-$400. Rewards >$75 produced 100% reporting rates. Hunters reported 71.0% of harvested pheasants banded with standard bands (no reward). Cocks had an estimated 62.3% harvest rate when released on public land and a 46.8% harvest rate on private land. Hens had an estimated 50.4% harvest rate when released on public land and a 31.1% harvest rate on private land. Estimated harvest rate for hen pheasants released in September in the either-sex zone was 15.5%. In the late season, pheasants released on public land had a 33.6% harvest rate and a 23.5% harvest rate on private land. We found that few pheasants (<6%) survived >30 days and birds released on public land had reduced survival rates primarily because of greater harvest rates. In fiscal year 1998-99, the net cost to raise and release 199,613 pheasants was $2,813,138 ($14.09 per bird). The average cost per harvested pheasant was $29.10, but ranged from $22.63 to $90.74 depending on the date and location of release. We estimated that 49.9% (82,017 birds) of pheasants stocked immediately prior to and during the regular and late seasons (excluding September releases of hens) were harvested by hunters. Percentage of pheasants harvested by hunters could be increased by expanding the either-sex zone in Pennsylvania so that more hens could be legally killed by hunters and by allocating releases to seasons and locations with greater harvest rates. However, before such changes are implemented, we recommend a survey of Pennsylvania pheasant hunters to ascertain their opinions and desires regarding releases of game-farm pheasants.
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Harvest and reporting rates of game-farm ring-necked pheasants