ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's pheasant population is up thanks to a mild winter followed by a warm spring, but it's still way below average.
The Department of Natural Resources says its pheasant population index increased 68 percent from 2011. Hunters are expected to harvest about 290,000 roosters this fall. That's up from 204,000 last year, but roughly half the number taken during the 2005 through the 2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good.
Kurt Haroldson, the DNR biologist who compiled the agency's annual roadside wildlife survey, says the counts still remain 51 percent below the 10-year average. The highest counts this year were in west-central Minnesota.
While the favorable weather has helped, Haroldson says the birds' long-term success is more closely linked to good habitat than annual variations in snowfall, rainfall and temperature.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.