The weekend's winter storm has skiers and snowmobilers giddy, but what about Minnesota's pheasants?
Up to 21 inches of snow fell in western Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday, and was blown by high winds into cattail sloughs, prime wintering cover for ringnecks.
State wildlife officials said Tuesday they don't believe the pheasant population -- struggling to rebound from a nasty winter two years ago -- has been harmed yet.
"I don't think this snow will be a big problem,'' said Kurt Haroldson, Department of Natural Resources assistant regional wildlife manager in New Ulm. But the snowfall does make pheasants more vulnerable if another storm strikes soon, he said.
And ringnecks now will have a tougher time finding food.
About 12 to 17 inches of snow fell in the Lac qui Parle area, said Dave Trauba, DNR area wildlife manager there. "I think we're OK -- it was the first snow of the year,'' he said. "I would have been concerned if it had hit in February when the sloughs already were filled with snow.''
However, pheasants already have lost habitat because some farmers have removed acreage from the federal Conservation Reserve Program, and plowed those grasslands. That means pheasants probably are more vulnerable to storms this winter.
There is a temporary upside, although not for the birds themselves: The snow will concentrate pheasants, which should benefit late-season ringneck hunters willing to wade through deep snow. The season runs through Jan. 1.