ABERDEEN, S.D. — Continued drought-like conditions in South Dakota could dampen the high hopes many biologists had for the pheasant population earlier this spring when the nesting period began.

Emmett Lenihan, farm bill biologist at habitat organization Pheasants Forever, told the Aberdeen American News (http://bit.ly/2s57mrB ) that the state’s northeast region is currently at the end of the peak nesting period for pheasants.

“Some birds potentially start nesting in late April if the conditions are right, but from mid-May through the first 10 days of June is the big-time period,” he said. “Then, after that until the end of June, you’ll start coming across hens that are re-nesting.”

He said he was encouraged by the number of birds he saw prior to nesting season.

“Going into the nesting season we were looking pretty good — everybody was seeing birds everywhere if there was habitat available,” he said.

Pheasants’ ideal nesting weather is moderate or warm temperatures with sufficient rainfall. Lenihan said rainfall is important in helping grow cool-season grasses, which are necessary for nesting cover and insect production.

Lenihan said that if lack of rain stunts grass growth, predators on the ground and in the sky can more easily find eggs and baby chicks.

“Right now we’re entering the big question mark period with the weather,” he said. “To survive, pheasant chicks really need two things: good cover and a food source. Right now the habitat is looking OK. We haven’t hit a critical point yet, but we need to get some rain before too long, because we don’t, as the weeks progress it will start having an effect on our bird numbers.”

Lenihan said he’s still keeping a positive outlook for hatching time.

“Things are turning around, and maybe we can keep them going in the right direction,” he said. “But we sure could use some rain.”

Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com