Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Animal-loving Minnesotans who leave corn for hungry pheasants at this time of year could be doing more harm than good, say wildlife experts with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

DNR wildlife managers have seen corn spread along roadsides, likely to help ringneck pheasants survive a difficult Minnesota winter.

“We are getting more reports of pheasants along roadsides,” said Wendy Krueger, Marshall area wildlife supervisor. “While it’s common to see pheasants along roadsides in search of grit, it’s not a good place for them to feed.”

Feeding wildlife can create a number of problems. For pheasants, it can draw them out of thick cover, which makes them vulnerable to predators, more susceptible to disease, and more at risk for injury or death from highway traffic or snowplows. Even with a deep snowpack, the adaptable pheasant can typically survive a tough winter without the help of human-placed feed.

“Pheasants are extremely resilient birds,” said Tim Lyons, DNR upland game research scientist. “Hens can lose between a third or even as much as half of their weight and still survive a winter by quickly gaining that weight back in the spring.”

Lyons said that a pheasant can conserve energy by remaining still for 24 hours or more. They also are able to survive for more than two weeks without food.