BY SCOTT RALL
The Globe outdoors columnist
So, with the weather being so brutal this winter, what is the best thing you can do for wildlife?
The answer is kind of a harsh one, but it is the answer rooted in the most science and biology from a wildlife perspective. The answer is to start planning your habitat projects for next spring to create the very best overall habitat that can be produced on the parcel of land you have in mind.
Almost everyone can take pleasure in watching a bird feeder in their back yard or watching wildlife browse the landscape in the early evening hours.
It is only normal to want to feed pheasants. Feeding pheasants can in certain circumstances be beneficial, but in many if not most other cases it can be a net negative.
First off, with the snow so deep most of the feeding that gets done is accomplished by pouring corn on the shoulder of the road. This brings birds to the food source and subjects them to interactions with automobiles. The location also requires the birds to fly off when a car comes and then fly back again over and over. It can take more energy than the bird can gain in one feeding opportunity.
It also groups birds together, making it easier for predators like fox, coyotes and birds of prey to make a meal of them. If you feed birds, they can become dependent on this food source, and if you don’t keep up your feeding efforts the birds will not expend their energies looking for other suitable available food sources.
In the end, there is no way for a feeding program to reach a percentage of the population large enough to make a measurable difference in populations for the following fall.
Don’t get me wrong. Feeding might very well help a local population of birds if they are close enough to good winter thermal cover to allow them to survive the big wind blows we have gotten twice a week since January.
Different organizations still supply corn for the well-intended, but the last time Nobles County Pheasants Forever did it we had a guy show up with 30 five-gallon pails and loaded them full to take home and use in his corn burner to heat his house. Not the best use of a hard-earned habitat dollar.
What you can do to help pheasants this time of year is get yourself a ticket to the 36th annual Nobles County Pheasants Forever Fundraising Banquet scheduled for March 22 at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at the Worthington Events Center and there should be more than enough of your friends and neighbors there to ensure you have a great time.
We are excited to announce a great habitat addition to the Herlein Boote Wildlife Management Area located just a few miles northwest of the city of Worthington. It is an addition of substance that will allow users to access the site from a new parking area on the parcel’s west side.
We were very happy to work with a long-time Worthington resident, Arden Harberts. He was experiencing a greater level of flooding concerns on this tract than in past years, and the transaction was a win-win for both the willing seller and Nobles County Pheasants Forever.
In addition to providing the high-quality winter habitat that pheasants and other wildlife need, it will keep surface water on the site and help reduce downstream flooding, which is a concern to all Nobles County residents. When planted to grass a 160-acre parcel will catch and hold up to two million gallons of water before that water will run off into an already overloaded natural creek or stream.
Pollinators will also benefit, in addition to a vast array of other non-game wildlife, like songbirds and reptiles.
Tickets for this year’s event are available at Worthington Federal Savings Bank, Culligan Water Conditioning and LPl Financial.
The committee is excited to tell you about what we have done this past year and what is on the docket for 2019.
The single best thing for pheasants and all other wildlife is high quality habitat, and enough of it. Nobody does this mission better than Pheasants Forever. Get your ticket and help us maximize the collective effort so the next awful winter we get the wildlife will be able to survive just a bit better. For them it is a matter of life or death.