ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s pheasant population is up but wildlife managers warn that the decline of habitat remains a concern.

The Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday its annual roadside survey showed a 19 percent increase in the overall pheasant index from 2017. While that’s similar to the 10-year average, it’s still 52 percent below the long-term average.

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DNR wildlife biologist Lindsey Messinger says the increase in many regions was surprising, given snowstorms in April and heavy rains across much of the state’s pheasant range this year. She says it appears many hens delayed nesting, and chicks were able to tolerate the rain in most areas.

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The highest pheasant counts were in west-central, southwestern and central Minnesota. But the index decreased 36 percent in south-central Minnesota.

Minnesota’s pheasant season runs Oct. 13-Jan. 1.

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