Last year was rough on lesser prairie chickens, a grouse that’s been a candidate for federal protection for years and is being considered for inclusion under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2012, there were about 34,000 lesser prairie chickens across portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Kansas is home to about half the lesser prairie chickens overall.
This year’s survey, which was conducted for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, shows the bird’s population has declined by about half, down to an estimated 17,600 total throughout the five states. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism attributes the decline largely to the recent drought.
But conservation groups say the bird needs federal listing under the Endangered Species Act to keep it from extinction.