Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Presented at Range Beef Cow Symposium XXII, November 29, 30, and December 1, 2011, Mitchell, Nebraska. Sponsored by Cooperative Extension Services and the Animal Science Departments of the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.



Privately owned lands serve a crucial role in maintaining wildlife populations. Perhaps that is because approximately 60 percent of the land in the United States is privately owned (Lubowski et al. 2006). While many private landowners are aware that how they use their lands will impact wildlife, some private landowners are looking for ways to maintain wildlife populations at increased levels for both aesthetic and economical purposes. In recent years, expenditures associated with hunting have boosted many local economies as well as benefiting private landowners (Benson, 1989; Das and Rainey, 2009). As such, landowners who are concerned with both agriculture and wildlife on their lands continue to search for land uses that will remain profitable with respect to agriculture, but will also benefit wildlife species of interest. For an agricultural land use to be acceptable to wildlife it must result in land that provides at least one requirement for a given wildlife species. The following paper will focus on the ability of various land uses to provide “structure” for ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and a variety of upland nesting waterfowl species during the nesting season in the Upper Great Plains.

Defining Structure

Managing wildlife populations often requires managers and landowners to be concerned with meeting all requirements of a given wildlife species throughout the entire year. For example, ring-necked pheasant generally occupy a relatively small home range (Hill, 1985; Whiteside and Guthery, 1983), so it is not difficult to imagine that one landowner may own all of the land that an individual pheasant will occupy throughout its entire life cycle. As such, the land base will need to provide suitable habitat throughout all four seasons. In contrast, upland nesting waterfowl may return to the Northern Great Plains to raise young and then return south for the winter months. Thus it is important to provide suitable nesting and brood rearing habitat for waterfowl in the Upper Great Plains, but not necessarily habitat for the rest of the year. The production period for ring-necked pheasant and waterfowl, similar to livestock, is a very critical time for maintaining or growing populations and poor production can often result in significant reductions in population levels. While landowners and managers can provide habitat crucial for production, weather can also play a role in how successful a nesting season will be with respect to ring-necked pheasant and waterfowl production (Snyder 1984). However, since managers generally have little control over the weather, it is beneficial for landowner managers to provide high quality habitat that will facilitate high production rates under ideal climatic conditions.