Thursday, March 14, 2013
Getting to be that time of year. I haven't actually physically observed lesser prairie chickens booming on a lek in a few years, due to losing my main private land viewing area, as well as the depressing fact that there aren't a helluva lot of them, if any, left to observe on public land. Still, I think I might go out early next week and see if I can find a lek I can watch through the binoculars. I have a few double secret spots where there might be one hanging on. I hope so. It's something I - or anyone else for that matter - may not be able to do for very much longer.
I don't know what's going to happen with the LPC, no one does, of course. I want to be optimistic. I want them to thrive, to hang on in the teeth of everything that's lined up against them. I also want to win the lottery and keep my hair. I'd say the chickens have only a marginally better chance for survival than I do for sudden wealth and a perpetually thick mop. I hope I'm wrong, about the chickens and my hair. They will never recover to anywhere near their historic or even late Seventies-era population and range levels. I will never again hear or see a chicken booming on the lek that used to occupy a sparse, windswept patch of high ground on my wife's family homestead. I saw my first real, live prairie chicken on that spot back in 1995. It was also the last prairie chicken I ever saw in that area. The next year all I heard were fading echoes as the birds just melted away like an outgoing tide.
Lessers are, of course, recreationally extinct everywhere except SW Kansas, and depending on what happens with the pending ESA status decision by USF&W, even that is in serious question. I've been meaning to get up to Kansas and hunt lessers just once, in some doomed "Last Buffalo Hunt" sort of way. I may not ever get that chance. We'll see next fall.
In the meantime, I will merely watch, fascinated and haunted as always, but without being able to shake the feeling that what I observe is epilogue.
Posted by Chad Love at 10:39 AM