ST. PAUL, Minn. — Wildlife managers say Minnesota’s pheasant population has fallen 26 percent in the last year due to the loss of habitat in the state’s farm country.

The Department of Natural Resources estimates changes in the pheasant population via an annual roadside count taken in August. The 2017 pheasant index released Tuesday shows a 26 percent decline from last year despite a mild winter and dry summer. It’s 32 percent below the 10-year average and 62 percent below the long-term average.

DNR researcher Nicole Davros says the state’s pheasant population has declined because of a steady loss of undisturbed nesting cover since the mid-2000s. A major reason is that nearly 687,000 fewer acres are enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of production.