Have You Seen the ‘Prairie Chicken’ in Iowa?
In the late 19th century, it was common to see hundreds if not thousands of Prairie Chickens in Iowa thanks to our state’s tallgrass prairies. One report – many, many years ago -- estimated around 33,000 birds in one flight, a half a mile long and 50 yards wide. But that was long, long ago. The last Prairie Chicken disappeared from Ringgold County in 1956. One was heard in Appanoose County in 1955.
Hunting began taking its toll on the population in the late 1890s as Iowa became inhabited by humans and continuing habitat losses made it hard for what was left to survive. A large and diverse spread of grassland is needed to support this species.
Today, most of the Prairie Chickens (about the size of a Crow) are found in Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, with small populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, according to the Iowa DNR.
The DNR reintroduced prairie chickens to Iowa twice in the 1980s - in Monona County and in Ringgold County. A nesting population was able to survive in Ringgold County.
Although it is highly unlikely to see the Prairie Chicken North of Highway 20, the Iowa DNR would like to know if you’ve seen one. Sightings are most likely to occur in Adair, Madison, Adams, Union, Clarke, Taylor, Ringgold, Decatur, and Wayne Counties. If you see one on your travels, let the Iowa DNR know by filling out this online form.
To view the current range of the Prairie Chicken, tap HERE.
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