LIBERTY, NY — Daily care is necessary to monitor the health of young pheasants and to ensure that there is adequate feed and water for the rapidly growing chicks.

Youth interested in participating in the annual Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)’s Day-Old Pheasant “Raise & Release” program have the unique opportunity to experience rearing pheasants and releasing them into the wild.

Orders can be placed until Wednesday, March 11, 2015 through Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County (CCESC)’s 4-H Youth Development program, located at the Gerald J. Skoda Extension Education Center on 64 Ferndale-Loomis Road in Liberty.

The rearing and release of pheasants requires a great deal of responsibility by youth and a substantial time commitment. The benefits of this program are as follows:

· Rearing pheasants is enjoyable, challenging, and teaches youth responsible behavior

· Released pheasants offer fall hunting opportunities

· People enjoy seeing and hearing pheasants

For more information on the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program or to register for chicks, please contact Michelle Lipari, CCESC Agriculture Community Educator at mml249@cornell.edu.

When the program started in the early 1900s, pheasant eggs and chicks were distributed to farmers and rural youth.

Today, day-old chicks are available at no cost to participants who are able to provide a brooding facility, a covered outdoor rearing pen, and an adequate release site.

According to the DEC, wild populations of this introduced species have reached all-time lows. Without propagation and release programs by DEC and private entities, pheasant hunting opportunities would not exist in New York State.

The pheasants may be released beginning when they are eight weeks old and no later than Dec. 1.

No chicks obtained through the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program can be released on private shooting preserves.

All release sites must be approved in advance by the DEC and must be open for public pheasant hunting opportunities. The DEC releases thousands of pheasants annually.

The program is funded through the state Conservation Fund from license fees paid by hunters, trappers, and anglers. More information is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7271.html.