Rains improving Lesser Prairie Chicken numbers

Rains improving Lesser Prairie Chicken numbers

2015 has been the wettest year on record for Texas. An unexpected beneficiary of the rain is the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

"The increase in Prairie Chicken numbers is primarily due to rain," Aaron Sisson said. "We are coming out of a drought and increased rain translates into improved habitat conditions, which obviously would help the Prairie Chickens increase their numbers."

Aaron Sisson, a private lands biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said that from 2014 to 2015, the Lesser Prairie Chicken has seen an increase of 25%, a number that was projected by the heavy rains. That 25% is an average over the entire range of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

"These heavy rains have really helped to serve vegetation," Sisson said. "Prairie chickens will actually nest in last year's dead plant growth, so the bunch grasses that you see growing out there."

Sisson said that another factor that increases population numbers, is a secluded habitat like privately owned land.

"Without private landowners participating in conservation programs, there really is no way to help the prairie chicken long term," Sisson said. "We have several landowners in the area that have that have been keys in helping set aside large blocks of habitat to improve the chickens' chance of survival and being removed from the endangered species list, which is everybody's goal."

Sisson said that the heavy rains could also help the Lesser Prairie Chicken reproduction, so next year's population numbers could be higher.

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