Grassland Bird Coordinator Max Alleger just sent me a note saying that he and a crew of MDC staff and volunteers just completed the fourth year of prairie chicken trapping in Kansas and relocation to Missouri. Among wildlife professionals these remarkable birds are commonly abbreviated as PCs. However they feel about the linguistic version of PC--political correctness--most people have no trouble getting behind PC restoration on the few surviving remnants of prairie in Missouri.
These relatives of the ruffed grouse, wild turkey and bobwhite quail are as close as Missouri is ever likely to get to restoring northern and western Missouri’s “charismatic megafauna.” Bison are too big and nomadic for restoration to be practical, but PCs would be a welcome addition to grasslands that have not echoed to their spring booming ritual in several human generations.
Alleger and his crew wanted to move as many as 30 male and 60 female prairie chickens to Wah-Kon’Tah Prairie this spring. They decided not to try catching and moving hens with young PCs later in the summer, as they have for the last three years. When they tracked those birds, they learned that survival of the juveniles was too low to justify the effort.
Beginning in March, six Missourians scouted potential trapping areas around Salina, Kan., and contacting landowners for permission to trap on 37 booming grounds--places where PC males strut their stuff and sing their eerie songs to win the hearts of love-struck hens. Thirteen days of trapping brought 26 cocks and 52 hens home to Missouri. Six other birds died during the trapping and relocation process.
Alleger reports that the new arrivals already are interacting with PCs from previous years’ trap-relocate work and with birds hatched on Wah-Kon’Tah Prairie since the program began. He said he expects some of this year’s birds to leave the release site, but the presence of birds and excellent habitat will reduce this tendency. He hopes to see more successful nesting than ever this year.
This is the fourth year of a five-year PC restoration effort. From the start, it has received support from the entire agency and beyond. More than 100 MDC workers from nine of the agency’s divisions have taken part in the work so far, not to mention nine citizen volunteers. I had the good fortune to be one of those, and I can tell you it’s an experience none of us is likely to forget. Let’s hope we can all take our grandchildren to Wah-Kon’Tah and other prairie areas one day to see and hear the spectacle of the PC mating ritual.