Update on Prairie Chickens' Return

Published on: Aug. 5, 2008

The latest news is good. As of yesterday, Max Alleger reports that 40 prairie chickens (hens and chicks) have successfully made the move from Kansas to Missouri, with a little help from the Conservation crew of trappers and transporters. The crew will keep working until they reach their goal of moving 50 birds to join the males brought to Missouri last spring. Although some of the males moved then have since left for greener prairie (or at least moved off the prairie we had hoped they’d settle on), eight remain there.

According to Max, “The rest remains up to the birds, I suppose. Each adult translocated was fitted with a new transmitter so that habitat use preferences can be monitored for a full year.”

Someone asked in response to my post last week why they’re trying this two-phase approach. Max told me the reason is basically that females are more likely to stay put when moved to a booming ground (spring mating ground) where the males already have established themselves. So the males were brought to Missouri in phase 1 in hopes they’d settle in. Some did it seems. Also, the biologists wanted to move the females with their chicks because the female birds would be more likely to stay with them when they were released on the new grounds. Max said it has worked elsewhere.

Working with nature isn’t easy. And the future of prairie chickens in Missouri isn’t clear. But it’s exciting to see people and the process in action as they try to keep a rich mix of life thriving out there.

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