By Meg Olson
The pheasant hunting season got underway this week in the Whatcom Wildlife Areas, along with the weekly release of hundreds of birds.
In Whatcom County approximately 400 hatchery-raised birds are released each week during the pheasant season, which lasts until November 30. The releases occur three days a week after 4 p.m. at the Lake Terrell Wildlife Area as well as release sites on land owned by the Alcoa Intalco Works and the BP Cherry Point Refinery.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) site manager Richard Kessler explained the pheasant release program, in place since the 1930s, exists to provide opportunities to upland game hunters in areas that don’t naturally sustain populations of the birds, specifically west of the Cascades. “We do get some that survive but the wet winters and spring really are hard on them” Kessler said. “It does augment their population but it doesn’t do enough to maintain it.
Natural Resources technician Brad Otto said he does see clutches of the pheasants while he is working in the fields every spring. Approximately 50 acres at the 1,500 acre Lake Terrell site are cultivated with crops to feed migratory waterfowl and other birds. “We don’t harvest anything. It’s left for wildlife,” he said.
Each year 35,000 to 40,000 pheasants are released on approximately 25 release sites in western Washington. All of the birds are ringneck pheasants, indigenous to China but now common in North America, raised in a single hatchery in Centralia and released when they are full grown. The program is self-funded through the sale of pheasant hunting licenses.
Licensed hunters are allowed in the Whatcom Wildlife Areas areas from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.