Saving Colorado’s Lesser Prairie – Chicken

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's dedicated researchers and biologists are restoring lesser prairie-chickens to the Comanche and Cimarron national grasslands.

Recognizing Colorado Endangered Species Week
May 10 through May 16, 2020 is Colorado Endangered Species Week. This week is dedicated to the mission of educating the public and working towards the protection of the over 300 plant and animal species that are at risk in Colorado.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) dedicated team of researchers and biologists are restoring lesser prairie-chickens to the Comanche and Cimarron national grasslands. This ambitious, 4-year translocation project involved capturing birds in western Kansas and transporting them to southeast Colorado. Surveys conducted in the spring of 2020 — a full year after the last birds were captured and released — indicate that the newly translocated birds have established leks (breeding areas) and are now successfully reproducing. CPW biologists are hopeful that these birds will continue to reproduce and establish a self-sustaining population of lesser prairie-chickens in Colorado. Prior to this translocation project, fewer than 50 birds remained in the state.

Why Are Lesser Prairie-chickens Important?

The lesser prairie-chicken is an umbrella species, meaning that conservation efforts to protect them also protect their habitat and the other species that rely on it. Our work on grasslands is landscape-level and much needed. Grasslands have been in decline for decades, suffering degradation from factors like agriculture and the dust bowl. These ecosystems support species like burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, swift foxes, and other grassland birds such as the lark bunting. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Mission

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission is to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, to provide a quality state parks system, and to provide enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. To learn more, visit the conservation section of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Article and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is the senior videographer and a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

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