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Agricultural Economics Department

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wildlife management, pheasant, fox pheasant relationships, research progress report, rabbits, bureau of sports fisheries and wildlife, department of game, fish and parks


A 5-year cooperative study designed to obtain information regarding effects of foxes on pheasant populations in eastern South Dakota was initiated in 1964. Specific objectives were to determine (1) population fluctuations of foxes and pheasants, (2) fox food habits and reproductive characteristics and (3) effectiveness and cost of fox reduction to increase pheasant abundance. Studies were conducted on four pairs of 100-square-mile areas. Fox populations were reduced on one member of each pair beginning in January 1965, and individual foxes were removed on a complaint basis on the other. Each pair of areas is referred to as a unit. When summer pheasant data on the fox-reduction and check areas are considered, significant differences are noted in adult pheasants per mile, broods per mile, and brood size from 1964 to 1965. Changes in adult pheasants per mile in Unit 2 showed the decline in the fox-reduction area was significantly (0. 01) less than in the check area. However, in Units 1 and 4 the declines in the check areas were significantly (0. 01) less than those in the fox-reduction areas. The difference in decline in broods per mile in the fox-reduction compared to the check area from 1964 to 1965 was negligible in Unit 1. In Unit 2 the fox-reduction area showed a slight increase compared to a decrease in the check area. This difference is significant (0. 01). In Unit 4 a smaller decline occurred in the fox-reduction area than in the check area. The difference in Unit 4 is significant (0. 05). The proportion of hens with broods showed an increase from 1964 to 1965 in the fox-reduction areas of Units 1, 2, and 4 and a lesser increase or a decrease in the corresponding check areas. A significant (0. 01) increase in brood size occurred from 1964 to 1965 in the fox-reduction compared to the check area of Unit 1. A non-significant increase occurred in the check area compared to the fox-reduction area in Unit 2. The adult pheasant-per-mile averages during the spring of 1965 showed more birds in the fox-reduction area than in the check area of Unit 1, and the reverse in Unit 2. Neither difference is significant. Units 3 and 4 showed significantly (0. 01) more adults per mile in the fox reduction than in the check areas during this same period. Fox data revealed that counting tracks in snow along transects is the best of three methods for determining fox activity in an area. Such counts in reduction and check areas within each unit showed that fox activity was sufficiently comparable in each pair of areas prior to fox reduction. Methods used to reduce fox populations also reduced to some extent other predators, including nest robbers. Grasses, mice, pheasants, rabbits, and insects, in descending order, respectively, were the most frequently occurring items found in stomachs of foxes taken in the study areas from January to June 1965. Grasses were found in stomachs that also contained mice and insects. Pheasants were the item composing the greatest volume, followed by rabbits and mice. Prairie deer mice made up the majority of small mammal remains. (See more in Text)










South Dakota State State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Agricultural Experiment Station