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Waiting To Mow Ditches Helps Protect Pheasant Nests

Governor Dennis Daugaard is reminding East River landowners to wait to mow ditches along the state highway system until July 10th. He says holding off on mowing is helpful for the pheasant population.

In South Dakota it’s illegal to mow ditches along state highways east of the Missouri River until July 10th. Travis Runia is a senior upland game bird biologist with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department. He says waiting to mow helps keep pheasant nests undisturbed.
“Roadside ditches, actually, if you think about the whole highway system in South Dakota, it actually adds up to quite a bit of acreage,” Runia says. “And by protecting those, it’s not as important as maybe CRP on the landscape or other grasslands, but the acreage is still pretty high. By protecting those nests it just means more pheasants in the fall for our hunters and just more opportunity for sportsmen out there.”
Although the rule only applies to the state highway system, Runia says delay of mowing other ditches can help the survival of pheasant nests as well.
“Of course there’s a trade-off between the hay quality that a producer gets,” Runia says. “Every day they wait the quality can decline a little bit. But if it’s able to work into a producer’s cycle to delay that a little bit it will benefit the pheasants.”
Runia says this time of year, roadside ditches provide good cover for nesting pheasants, and any delay in mowing can help the birds succeed.