Pheasants get extra help to survive P.E.I. winters
About 25 people feeding pheasants corn in East Kings County
About 25 residents are feeding corn to the birds, who are not native to Prince Edward Island.
Pheasants were gradually introduced to the Island beginning in 2007. There are about 100 on the eastern part of the Island.
Unfortunately, the pheasants are not well-suited for the storms and heavy snow.
To help them survive, residents willing to feed the pheasants are being provided feed by the Souris and Area Branch of the Prince Edward Island Wildlife Federation.
Branch coordinator Fred Cheverie said people have been feeding the pheasants for the past two winters.
"They're non-native to PEI and not greatly adapted to heavy winters. They don't have fur down their legs or on their feet. Their nose and their beak is not really designed for handling sleet storms and stuff like that," said Chevarie.
"Last couple of winters have just been rugged. Once that snow comes and their food level gets covered, the bird becomes weak and it's open game for predators."
The branch received $500 from the PEI Wildlife Conservation fund. That has been spent and they are now buying the feed from their own budget.
Chevarie said pheasants are being fed in Fortune Bridge, Lower Rollo Bay, Souris Line Road and one lone hen at East Point.
He said participation in the program has increased dramatically this winter as the population of pheasants spread.
Residents help with feeding
"They're a magnificent looking bird and people enjoy them so much," he said.
"Sometimes a few, up to a dozen and last year we had 18 here at one time.
Gojmerac describes the pheasants as shy birds, although they don't mind him.
"But if danger comes around, they just disappear," Gojmerac said.
Chevarie said it is preferable not to have the pheasants become dependant on being fed by humans.
"But Old Time Winter has been here for the last couple of years," he said.
"We don't put any feed until we have to, until that deep snow comes. Because we want to keep them as wild as we possibly can. That gives them the best chance of survival."
The pheasants were introduced to P.E.I. through wild release. The birds were captured wild in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and then brought here for release.
"We released nineteen at Bear River the first year and six to eight intermittently since then," said Chevarie.
Years before, Souris Wildlife tried raising them by hatching the eggs, getting the pullets and keeping them in a semi-safe environment.
But they all died. Wild capture and release is the way to go, Chevarie said.
Anyone in the Souris area that has pheasants hanging around and wants to feed them can contact the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation.