Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



The Prairie Naturalist 49:57-65; 2017


In 2012, Nebraska experienced one of the worst droughts since the 1930s, accompanied by abnormally high temperatures. We studied the impacts of the 2012 summer drought on female ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) body condition and baseline and stress-induced corticosterone concentrations (CORT). We hypothesized that drought conditions would reduce pheasant body condition, increase chronic stress resulting in elevated baseline CORT levels, and down-regulate pheasant stress response to acute stressors, resulting in reduced stress-induced CORT concentrations. In southwestern Nebraska, we captured female pheasants in 2012 (pre-drought) and 2013 (post-drought). Pheasants had poorer body condition after the drought. Although female CORT measures were similar among years (baseline: F1,8 = 0.591, P = 0.465; stress-induced: F1,26 = 1.118, P = 0.300), females in poorer condition had elevated baseline CORT (F1,26 = 6.446, P = 0.018) and stress-induced CORT (F1,26 = 8.770, P = 0.006) with potential negative consequences for reproduction. Our results suggest that it is critical for managers to consider how to buffer the negative impacts of drought on pheasant physiology and population growth, as droughts are likely to occur more frequently in southwest Nebraska in the next century.