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Bush & Crick

Game Commission Changes Pheasant Release Schedule After Avian Influenza Detected; Schuylkill County Affected

Find out what properties in Schuylkill County are affected.

In response to the detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at a private game farm in Northumberland County, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has announced adjustments to its late-season pheasant releases. This decision is part of a strategy to protect the future of the agency’s pheasant program and ensure its continuation in the 2024-25 hunting seasons.

Over the next two weeks, the Game Commission will reduce the number of pheasants released statewide. Notably, in Eastern Pennsylvania, pheasant releases will only occur this week and not the following week, with properties receiving their final two releases of the year simultaneously.

This change in stocking will affect some areas of Schuylkill County. Refer to the state’s Pheasant Allocation page for more information on what properties here are affected.

These adjustments, while minor, are critical in mitigating the risk of an HPAI outbreak that could have severe repercussions for pheasant hunters, the Game Commission says. The concern arose following the state Department of Agriculture’s announcement of HPAI detection at Martz’s Game Farm in Northumberland County. Although the pheasants released by the Game Commission are from Mahantongo Game Farm, also located in Northumberland County, there have been no detections or suspicions of HPAI at this facility.

Given the close proximity of HPAI to Mahantongo Game Farm, the Game Commission is exercising caution. As a preventive measure, the agency will retain all hen pheasants and about 5% of the roosters initially intended for release. If HPAI remains undetected at Mahantongo Game Farm, these birds will be temporarily moved to the Game Commission’s Loyalsock Game Farm.

This precautionary step necessitates the combined release of pheasants this week in counties served by Loyalsock Game Farm, which includes Adams, Berks, Bradford, and several others. The objective is to vacate space at Loyalsock for the incoming birds from Mahantongo.

Counties served by the Southwest Game Farm will continue to see rooster-only releases as scheduled in the next two weeks. Hunters can refer to the 2023 Pheasant Allocation page on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website for a detailed list of properties scheduled for pheasant releases.

Ian Gregg, Wildlife Operations Division Chief, commented on the decision, stating, “This wasn’t a decision the Game Commission took lightly, because we know that pheasant hunters have been looking forward to the late small game season pheasant releases and will be inconvenienced by our making these adjustments on short notice. 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.”

Photo: Canva

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