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Cold weather could lead to delayed nesting in South Dakota

PIERRE (AP) — A cold April could hurt South Dakota's pheasants and prairie grouse.

The weather has suppressed growth of cool-season grasses and appears to be delaying the start of nesting. Fresh, green plants are a key food source for birds trying to grow eggs before they nest, the Pierre Capital Journal reported .

The cold spring might limit the number of nesting attempts pheasants make this summer, said Travis Runia, a senior upland game biologist for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Prairie grouse could also delay nesting activity, though experts find it harder to gauge. Prairie chickens and sharptail grouse have a tougher time building up the energy and nutrient reserves to grow eggs when spring grass growth is delayed, said Dan Svingen, district ranger for the Fort Pierre National Grassland. Cooler springs with a later grass growth can lead to fewer eggs per nest, resulting in fewer chicks and eventually fewer birds to hunt in the fall, he said.

But the cool season isn't completely negative, according to experts. The extra snow means more moisture in the soil, giving this year's grasses more with which to work. Experts said the moist soil will also help bring bugs that young grouse and pheasants feed almost exclusively on for the first two months of their lives.

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