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Increased predation, housing developments affect grassland bird populations

News from CSKT Natural Resources

Pheasant and migratory waterfowl hunters on the Flathead Indian Reservation faced a wide variety of weather conditions while hunting on the opening day of pheasant hunting season on Saturday,  Oct. 7.  After a good opening day for waterfowl hunting a week earlier, hunters had a chance for a mixed bag of both waterfowl and pheasants. The Tribal Wildlife Management Program monitored the harvest at two hunter check stations, one south of Ronan and another south of Arlee. Tribal wildlife biologists, assisted by wildlife biology students from the University of Montana visited with 117 bird hunters and recorded a total of 67 pheasants, 86 migratory waterfowl, primarily ducks and teal, and nine geese. 

Tribal Wildlife Program Manager Dale Becker noted that a colder, rainy day forecast may have limited the number of pheasant hunters somewhat. Becker reported that the number of pheasant hunters has decreased in recent years as pheasant numbers have decreased. Nesting cover on tribal, state and federal wildlife habitats was in good condition.

While some hunters believe that raptors are a major limiting factor, Becker said that mammalian predators are a far greater concern, especially striped skunks, raccoons and red fox. Skunks have traditionally been numerous, but raccoons and red fox seem to have increased significantly during the past few years. He added that most of the local and wintering red-tailed hawks and wintering rough-legged hawks are adapted to prey upon small mammals, such as meadow voles and deer mice. He is much more concerned about the greater adverse impacts of increased housing development and changes in agricultural practices from more tilled farming to increased intense grazing as the most significant factors in decreases in population levels of most grassland bird species.

Pheasant and gray partridge hunting seasons on the reservation continue through Jan. 1, 2018. The hunting season for most waterfowl extends from Sept. 30 through Jan. 7, 2018, with a closure during the period of Jan. 8-12, 2018. A second open season for migratory waterfowl hunting then commences on Jan. 13, 2018 and extends through Jan. 18, 2018. Hunting for scaup closes on Dec. 24. 

More detailed information on hunting seasons, bag and possession limits, etc. are included in the Flathead Indian Reservation Pheasants, gray Partridge and Migratory Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, which are available at most sporting goods stores and are listed on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ website. For more information about the 2017-18 pheasants, gray partridge and migratory waterfowl hunting season, shooting hours and limits contact Becker at 406-675-2700, ext. 7278 or


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