Paterson pulls plug on pheasant program

Gov. David Paterson has confirmed that the state's only facility for rearing ring-necked pheasants for stocking into the wild will be closed.

The 8,000 birds currently housed at the Reynolds Game Farm in the town of Dryden (Ithaca County) will be processed and distributed through local food pantries to needy families, Paterson said.

The governor billed the closing as a cost-cutting measure in difficult economic times, saying shuttering the farm will save about $750,000 annually.

Meanwhile, area sportsmen called the move political - motivated by deep-pocketed animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Those groups have long advocated against stocking programs, and were quick to commend the governor's decision to close Reynolds farm.

"While I understand the economic and recreational importance of pheasant hunting to many of New York's outdoor enthusiasts, we must focus our limited resources in this difficult crisis and look for innovative ways to meet the needs of the people of the State," Paterson said. "The closure of the Reynolds Game Farm presents us with one such opportunity."

Neither relocation nor release into the wild is a viable option for the birds, according to the DEC, because other stocking facilities were not equipped to take the pheasants and the birds have had their wing feathers clipped, making them unable to fly.

Local hunters have expressed dismay over the decision, saying it was done in a vacuum and will negatively impact license sales and hunting opportunities for adults and youth.

Dominick Bernardi of Lake Clear, an avid grouse, woodcock and pheasant hunter, said the move will save little money for the state.

"The five full-time workers at the farm will be reassigned; no one is being laid off, so that $350,000 in salaries and benefits will still have to be paid," he said. "That's why I say it's political."

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