28 December 2023- The recent detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at a private Northumberland County game farm has prompted the Pennsylvania Game Commission to adjust its late season pheasant stockings to help safeguard the agency’s pheasant program and better ensure it will continue next year in the 2024-25 hunting seasons.
In the next two weeks, the Game Commission will release fewer pheasants statewide than initially planned. And in the eastern part of the state, pheasant releases will occur only this week and not next, with properties that receive birds essentially seeing their final two releases of the year combined as one.
These relatively minor adjustments, however, could significantly reduce the risk of an HPAI outbreak with potentially devastating impacts for pheasant hunters. Here’s how.
Last week, the state Department of Agriculture announced the recent detection of HPAI at Martz’s Game Farm in Northumberland County. While the pheasants released by the Game Commission originate from a different facility, Mahantongo Game Farm, where HPAI has not been detected nor suspected, that facility also is in Northumberland County.
The proximity of HPAI to the facility represents a concern. If there was an HPAI outbreak there, agricultural regulations would require euthanasia of many or all of the breeding pheasants that provide stock for the Game Commission’s program, jeopardizing the program’s future.
So the Game Commission is taking some precautionary measures. First, the agency will hold onto all of the hen pheasants, and about 5% of the roosters, that had been slated for release in the final two pheasant releases of 2023-24. Then, if HPAI remains undetected through continued testing of birds at Mahantongo Game Farm, pheasants there will be temporarily transferred to the Game Commission’s Loyalsock Game Farm. That’s why the counties served by Loyalsock will get their final two releases all at once this week. The pheasants to be released need to be cleared out to make room for those coming in.
Loyalsock Game Farm serves the following counties to be stocked this week: Adams, Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Centre, Columbia, Cumberland, Franklin (State Game Lands 235 only), Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wayne, Wyoming and York.
The remaining counties are served by the Southwest Game Farm, and rooster-only pheasant releases in those counties will continue as scheduled in each of the next two weeks.
“This wasn’t a decision the Game Commission took lightly, because we know that pheasant hunters have been looking forward to the late small game season pheasant releases and will be inconvenienced by our making these adjustments on short notice,” said Ian Gregg, Wildlife Operations Division Chief. “However, we believe this precautionary approach is the right thing to do because it will significantly reduce the risk of disease impacts that would be far more devastating to pheasant hunting in the long run.”