Thousands of trapped pheasants drown in Tropical Storm flooding

The flood-related deaths of two bison at the Hersheypark zoo earlier this month stunned animal lovers and prompted a national animal rights group to call for a federal probe into the incident.

The drowning deaths of thousands of pheasants on two Pennsylvania game farms during the same floods caused by Tropical Storm Lee got virtually no attention.

As many as 40,000 thousand pheasants were trapped in their pens on two Pennsylvania Game Commission farms during the flooding in Lycoming County, killing many, if not most of them.

"Some drowned, some were able to escape," said commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. "The flood hit so quick there was no ability to free them."

He said game officers are trying to round up several thousand of escaped birds, but that he did know how many birds drowned because their bodies were swept away in the floods.

Feaser said the game commission is reviewing its disaster response and location of its game farm pens.

 "Everything is being evaluated at this point," he said.

Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said she was disappointed that the commission didn't have an comprehensive disaster plan in place.

"We hope they have learned from the event and are taking measures to have proper planning in place for the animals to prevent something like this from happening again," said Speed.

The game commission raises the pheasants to stock game lands and other public land where hunting is allowed.

Interest in the plight of the bison continues. The national animal rights group, PETA, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate ZooAmerica's handling of the Sept. 7 incident.

Mindy Bianca, a spokeswoman for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, said the flood waters rose too fast for zoo keepers to evacuate the two buffalo. One bison drowned and another was shot because he was in danger of drowning, she said. 

Bianca said Wednesday that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the group which accredits Zoo America, will not conduct an onsight inspection, but will complete an assessment of the zoo's handling of the flood via written reports.