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6,000 pheasants have flown the coop

SHARON —Motorists traveling along Route 41 in and out of Sharon have been noticing, and avoiding, an unusually large number of pheasants on the roadsides. Sharon Pheasant Farm proprietor Robert Wilbur said approximately 6,000 birds escaped from the farm, which has two locations near the center of town on Route 41, during last week’s snowstorm. “The wet snow and winds damaged the pens where the pheasants are kept,” he said. “The wet snow just tore through everything. We were out there Saturday during the storm trying to knock the snow off the pens and fences but by 5 p.m. we knew we were in deep trouble.”Wilbur said the pheasant farm was faced with two challenges: recovering the escaped pheasants and rebuilding the damaged pens. The primary farm on Route 41 lost six of the 10 pens. In the immediate aftermath of the storm when there was still substantial snowcover on the ground, Wilbur was able to collect about 1,500 of the birds, but now he says, “They’re roaming all over the place. There’s lots of food for them to forage from cornfields and berries in the bushes and lots of cover for them to hide in. They’re having a party.“They’re not like cattle, where you can herd them. You can’t get close to them. They just fly away,” he said.Altogether, the farm raises approximately 20,000 birds a year to supply to gun clubs for recreational hunting. The bird hunting season opens the third Saturday in October and runs into January. Wilbur had sold and delivered approximately a third of his stock before the storm. By Monday, Oct. 31, Wilbur had mostly given up trying to recapture the escapees and was focused on rebuilding the pens, though he was still fielding calls about pheasant sightings. Although many of the pheasants seemed to want to stay near home, they are easily spooked by humans walking toward them. Wilbur noted that even though they live in captivity the birds are wild and can fly. “They are hardy, sturdy birds that can take care of themselves,” he said. “They do not have to be fed, they find their own food. I am not worried about them surviving. ”However, it is clear from numerous sightings of roadkill, that they are falling prey both to automobile traffic and their natural predators: coyotes, foxes and hawks.Wilbur is taking his loss stoically. It’s not the sort of thing he said that you can insure. There is no insurance on the birds, but, “While I’m hurting from this storm we have to put things in perspective. I still have my family and my home, those are the things that matter.”

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