ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Favorable weather is being credited with a rebound in Minnesota’s pheasant population.

The Department of Natural Resources says its pheasant index, as measured by roadside counts, is 33 percent higher than it was last year. The DNR says its August roadside survey calculated 40.7 pheasants per 100 miles of roadside driven.

But the DNR says the big gain reported Tuesday masks a serious long-term problem _ a dramatic drop in nesting habitat across the state, particularly the loss of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program protected as grasslands instead of planted with crops.

The 2015 pheasant index is 39 percent below the 10-year average and 59 percent below the long-term average.

More than 50,000 hunters are expected to take part in Minnesota’s 2015 pheasant season, which starts Oct. 10.