Mixed bag reported on surveys of prairie chickens

A spring survey of prairie chicken mating grounds by Wildlife and Parks produced some good news and not so good news.

The good news is greater chickens appear to have increased significantly. However, if appears lesser chickens have declined.

The rangewide index for greater prairie chickens increased 16 percent compared to 2002, which is statistically significant by scientific standards.

Greater prairie chickens observed per square mile in the blackjack/eastern cropland region increased 51 percent compared to 2002.

The Flint Hills regional index increased 14 percent and all of the 10 western cropland surveys showed a 7 percent increase.

However, the rangewide lesser prairie chicken index decreased by 29 percent this spring, which is considered statistically significant. Only the Comanche and Kiowa county area, on the eastern margin of the lesser prairie chicken range, increased. Record-breaking drought conditions prevailed throughout 2002 over almost all of Kansas’ lesser prairie chicken range, hurting both reproduction and survival.

Efforts to document the expansion of lesser prairie chickens in regions north of the Arkansas River were nearly completed this spring, with only a few small areas remaining to be checked in 2004.