Prairie Chickens (Bart)

Prairie Chickens. What a delight. After yesterday’s official opening day we drove to Cottonwood Falls and shared a wonderful dinner (and night) together at the Grand Central Hotel before leaving early the next morning to view the mating dance of the prairie chicken. Having lived most of my life in Ruffed Grouse country, I wanted to see this grass grouse who has such a good tailor. Even though it was 27 F and blowing 35 mph, the birds did not disappoint. The girls weren’t interested, but the guys did their thing. I guess it’s what you do when you can’t drive a red Camaro with a roaring muffler. They’ve come under a great deal of pressure in recent years from changes to the management of their few remaining refuges in the tallgrass prairie regions. Ranchers burn the prairie every year, then stock it with twice the normal number of cattle to graze on the flush of grass. Unfortunately it leaves the prairie chickens no place to hide from hawks, and since I was a young man their numbers have dropped from 10 million to under 250,000. Amazingly, Kansas DNR still allows them to be hunted. We risk losing the bird that inspired so many of the native American dances.

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