Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, July 1, 2016
A coalition of state wildlife regulators today announced that the population of lesser prairie chickens in the wild has fallen by more than 13 percent since the last annual aerial survey — a troubling outcome the Obama administration predicted earlier this year.
There is now an estimated breeding population of 25,261 birds, down from 29,162 at the same point last year, according to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, or WAFWA (Greenwire, June 26, 2015).
The decline ends a two-year streak of population increases and comes after the Obama administration lost a pair of legal challenges that sought to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for the bird, which today survives on just 12 percent of its historical range.
Found in four eco-regions across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, prairie chickens have been harmed by development and a 2012 drought that reduced their population from around 34,000 birds to just over 17,600.