South Dakota Roadside Mowing: Hold off until July 10

June 28, 2022

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Departments of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and Transportation (DOT) want to remind individuals there are laws and rules governing when mowing right-of-way ditches can begin on the state highway system.

“Roadside ditches provide valuable nesting cover for upland birds, especially in portions of the state where there is limited upland habitat,” stated Tom Kirschenmann, GFP Division of Wildlife director. “Our department is asking the public to consider delaying haying and mowing activities along roadside ditches as long as possible. These areas play a critical role in providing nesting habitat for pheasants. Even the delay of a week or two will result in more successful nest attempts.”

While current rules addressing roadside ditch mowing is only applicable to state highways, GFP asks landowners to consider postponing mowing on all roadside ditches and follow the same dates that apply to state highways.

In the spring and early summer, hen pheasants seeking suitable nesting locations are attracted to the vegetation in roadsides. Pheasant production in roadsides is diminished when roadsides are mowed prior to completion of nesting activity. Incubating hens nearing their hatch dates can be struck and killed by mowing equipment. Peak hatching generally occurs in mid-June. Hens and newly hatched broods remain susceptible to mowing equipment for another two weeks after hatching due to the restricted mobility of chicks and the tendency of the hen and young to hide from approaching danger rather than flushing to escape.

The rule providing guidance on roadside ditch mowing does allow the DOT to begin mowing road right of ways before the start dates if there is a need to provide increased safety or to control noxious weeds.