Dancing grouse has primal connection to the land

By: Kathryn McNutt The Journal Record August 12, 2022

Skylar Nucosee dances the prairie-chicken dance during the 2021 Unite the People Powwow at Scissortail Park. (Courtesy photo/Larissa Rose Photography)

The lesser prairie-chicken not only matters as an indicator of our environment’s health. It forms a primal connection to the land and its inhabitants for centuries.

It needs space and protection: Ideally, a lesser prairie-chicken needs 25,000 contiguous acres of appropriate habitat to meet its breeding, nesting and brood-rearing needs to thrive.

Stephanie Manes, a research biologist with LPC Conservation, works with landowners like Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kansas, to bank grassland for a permanent conservation easement that can restore the bird’s dwindling population.

Survival of the species is important both environmentally and culturally, Manes said.
The bird is the top indicator of the ecosystem’s health and, as the largest upland game bird, fed humans for hundreds of years, she said.

Last, but certainly not least, the lesser prairie-chicken “is one of the most charismatic birds,” Manes said.

The spectacle of the males’ elaborate mating dance has captured the imagination of people for centuries.

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