Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Oklahoma
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Kauth, H. R., A. J. Gregory, A. J. Kauth, S. Harsh, T. J. Runia, and R. C. Lonsinger. 2022. Snow alters pheasant survival and land use in South Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management 86: e22243.


We examined survival of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) occupying fragmented landscapes within the Prairie Pothole Region in South Dakota where severe winter weather events historically limited pheasant population growth due to increased mortality. Recent landscape transformations could further impact overwinter adult female survival by reducing critical winter resources. Assessing the influence of time-dependent landscape features on survival at small focal scales may reveal spatially important relationships. We captured and monitored 321 adult female pheasants from 2017–2019 and recorded 110 pheasant winter mortalities. Female pheasant winter survival was 0.66 (85% CI = 0.62–0.70) and was inversely correlated to snow depth. We generated cox-proportional hazard models to determine risk of mortality associated with landscape features. Pheasants using landscapes other than concealment (e.g., emergent wetland, tall vegetation, woody, and food plot) experienced 222% increased risk of raptor predation than pheasants using concealment landscape features. Additionally, pheasants experienced a 58% reduced risk of weather mortality when using emergent wetlands. We analyzed resource selection ratios to understand how perceived landscape risks at the population level scaled down to land use preference at the individual level. Female pheasants selected for emergent wetlands, showed no selection for woody features, and avoided tall vegetation (>75 cm non-aquatic herbaceous vegetation) during severe winters. Pheasants would greatly benefit from conservation of emergent wetlands and integrating concealment opportunities into harvested fields.