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Aerial Surveys to Document Lesser Prairie Chicken Population Trends

From Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Aerial surveys to count lesser prairie chickens will begin March 16 and run through mid-May over five states containing lesser prairie chicken habitat. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) conducts the surveys each spring when the birds gather at traditional leks, or dancing grounds. As part of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, the surveys are designed to document population trends and determine how birds are responding to the plan’s management strategies. The surveys will be conducted by helicopter in locations chosen randomly within lesser prairie chicken range, which is part of the methodology strategy. In previous years, some of the fly paths prompted calls, which is why WAFWA is getting the word out about the start of aerial survey work.

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie chicken with voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

“We’ve established a consistent methodology for these aerial surveys, working closely with the wildlife agencies of each of the states involved,” explained Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Program Manager. “We’re documenting population trends over time that will allow us to see how various management strategies for the bird are working on the ground.”

Results from this year’s surveys will be available on July 1 via www.wafwa.org.