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(1) The department will not authorize participation in the upland game bird release program for pheasants unless the proposed project meets the following requirements:

(a) all birds must be at least ten weeks of age at the time of release;

(b) no more than 40% of the birds released may be cocks;

(c) all birds must be fully feathered, appear healthy, uninjured, and have the ability for flight at the time of the release;

(d) applications for releases must be postmarked by January 15, and all releases must be made between August 1 and September 15;

(e) groups or individuals releasing birds on property they do not own must provide the department with written documentation from the landowner giving permission for the release, acknowledging the requirements of allowing free public hunting, and notifying the department whom payment should be made;

(f) releases may not be made in Fergus, Richland, or Roosevelt counties in order to provide a potential basis for evaluating the success of the program;

(g) all releases must be on land open to public hunting without the imposition of any monetary charge for such hunting privilege during the year of release. Release sites may be subject to use limitations but no fee may be charged in connection with the privilege to hunt on any release site;

(h) all release sites should contain a minimum of 160 contiguous acres under the ownership of the applicant or the person authorizing release. Release sites as small as 80 contiguous acres will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may be authorized if the acreage involved would provide a viable habitat base for the number of birds authorized to be released;

(i) within one mile of each release site, habitat must be available that consists of:

(i) at least 10% effective winter cover;

(ii) 25% idle cover such as undisturbed residual vegetation 10 or more inches high; and

(iii) 10% food sources, such as cultivated grain;

(j) certification of the genetic strain must be available from the commercial source of the eggs or chicks and must be provided, upon request, to the department by the applicant;

(k) all source stock must be purchased from an authorized National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) hatchery;

(l) the department reserves the right to inspect the pheasant raising facilities and sample birds;

(m) the department reserves the right to refuse to stock or pay for any pen-reared pheasants that are observed to be in poor condition or health prior to or during release activities;

(n) habitat sites will be inspected by department personnel to determine the authorized number of birds that may be released. This number will be determined by:

(i) the availability of required habitat components within one mile of the release site; and

(ii) the number of birds that the area will support assuming one bird will require approximately three acres of habitat within a one-mile radius of the release site;

(o) banding of birds may be required in specified study areas;

(p) pen-reared pheasants may be assessed for overall health and general condition prior to and during release activities and the department maintains the right to refuse authorization of any pheasant release or payment for released pheasants if pheasants appear unhealthy prior to or during the release activity;

(q) all releases must be verified at the time of release by a department representative who will submit the verification form to the program coordinator for payment to the landowner or their designee;

(r) pheasant releases may occur annually within a five-year period starting from the first release. The department may fund additional releases for one additional five-year period if habitat improvements are established that address factors limiting pheasant numbers.

(2) The department may authorize the release of up to 200 pheasants per application.

(3) If the department is unable to fund all eligible applications, the department may:

(a) fund one eligible application per applicant;

(b) fund an equitable number of eligible applications for each applicant; and

(c) conduct a random drawing.

History: 87-1-249, MCA; IMP, 87-1-248, MCA; NEW, 1988 MAR p. 720, Eff. 4/15/88; AMD, 2000 MAR p. 831, Eff. 3/31/00; EMERG, AMD, 2000 MAR p. 1512, Eff. 6/16/00; AMD, 2001 MAR p. 2020, Eff. 9/7/01; AMD, 2012 MAR p. 1766, Eff. 9/7/12.

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