Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Report: Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat Assessment at the Comanche National Grasslands

storm clouds over Comanche National Grasslands
A storm advances over the prairie at the Comanche National Grasslands.

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is one of several gallinaceous birds native to Colorado's eastern plains. Its historic distribution covers parts of 5 states in the southern Great Plains. The southeastern corner of Colorado represents a small portion of the historic range of this species, which once inhabited a substantial portion of southwestern Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and north-central Texas. In Colorado, the species has been documented in Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Prowers counties within the past ten years.

The geographic distribution of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken is believed to have declined by over 90% since European settlement. Within this greatly reduced range, population numbers have also suffered dramatic declines. Recent years appear to have been especially hard on populations in southeastern Colorado. Habitat conditions recovered somewhat from past drought years, however, the area was hit by a series of blizzards in the winter of 2006-2007 that may have had a serious impact on population numbers.

The Comanche National Grasslands encompass more than 440,000 acres in Otero, Las Animas, and Baca counties in southeastern Colorado. CNHP assessed high priority Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat on 9,300 acres the Comanche National Grasslands. For more information about the study's methods and conclusions, see our Documents and Reports Page.

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