29 November 1998

Chickens Invade The Prairies

Greater prairie chickens once occupied the prairies from Canada to Texas. They are considered virtually extinct in Canada; and their current range is an area from northwestern Minnesota south to northeastern Oklahoma, and from southeastern Illinois to northeastern Colorado.

Booming mating calls rocked the Illinois prairie in the mid-1800s, announcing that colorful greater prairie chickens were near and abundant. As pioneers moved west, the birds were hunted for food. They fell to predators, their habitats shrank, and, scientists say, even the birds' declining genetic diversity brought their near extinction.

Now as published in the latest issue of the journal Science, nine researchers report that an isolated group of the birds is making a comeback. The potential recovery is the result of an experimental conservation-management program, in which birds from other states were added. The program was based on genetic findings and 35 years of population monitoring.

One of the researchers Jeffrey Brawn of the Illinois Natural History Survey says 'Although the prairie chickens' recovery may be temporary, and it may be necessary to bring in more birds in several years to revitalize the population's diversity. A good sign, he added, is that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been protecting and developing grasslands to expand the Prairie Ridge park.' He adds 'I think it would be a real loss in our identity, in our heritage, if we didn't have wild prairie chickens in our state."

Science à Gogo thoroughly agree but caution against aggressive KFC franchisees on the look out for ways of improving their profit margins.