Scott County Record, May 20th, 2021
David Haukos, a researcher with Kansas State University, has spent nearly four decades studying the lesser prairie
chicken. He agrees that, as numbers currently stand, that WAFWA won’t come anywhere near its goal of reaching an annual average of 60,000 LPCs in the five state region that is the bird’s primary habitat. Part of the problem is that the “carrying capacity” of land currently enrolled in the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative or through Common Ground Capital isn’t adequate to support
anywhere close to 67,000 birds. Beyond that, Haukos says the LPC has a long history of fluctuating numbers. He attributes that to “an environment that changes dramatically, and which can see significant changes from one year to the next.” He points out that during periods of severe drought during the 1930s and again in the 1950s, the LPCs saw their habitat strongholds contract significantly. “They colonize and emerge from those areas when conditions improve,” Haukos says. “So to isolate the population
based on a one year count doesn’t offer a full picture with what’s happening on the landscape.”
Likewise, Western Kansas and a large region that is home to the LPC also experienced severe drought from 2011-13, which again resulted in declining numbers. The population has begun to rebound in the years since due to greater precipitation and fewer intensive weather events. “Last year, it was dry, especially out west and it’s been dry in the southern part of the range (Texas and New Mexico) over the last few years, so that’s led to renewed concerns about their population,” says Haukos.
To continue reading: Scott County Record May 20 – LPC INT w WW and KSU INT in support