After several years of lawsuits, petitions, campaigns and flat-out arguing, the lesser prairie chicken has officially been removed from the U.S. threatened species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the announcement this week.
Since the late 1990s several environmental groups had tried to get the birds listed as threatened or endangered because of habitat and population declines across much of their five state range, which includes much of western Kansas. Despite organized attempts to better management of the birds, including setting aside large amounts of land largely dedicated to lesser prairie chicken habitat, the birds were placed on the threatened species list in March of 2014.
Several months ago a Texas judge interjected, saying not enough work had been before the birds were listed as threatened. The Fish and Wildlife Service has stated they have no plans to pursue listing the birds in the near future.
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Kansas probably has more lesser prairie chickens than Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas combined. The end of a lengthy drought has improved habitat over much of the bird’s range. Still, loss of grasslands to conversion to croplands or energy exploration continue to be threats for the birds.
July 29-31 are the dates for the Fifth Annual Midwest Hunt Fest, to be held at Century II. Shawn Nielsen, show manager, said this year’s event will be much like last year’s with a variety of vendors and activities .The show will be open July 29 1-8 p.m., July 30 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and July 31 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The Wichita Eagle will not have a booth at this year’s event because of scheduling conflicts.
On Aug. 6 the Flatland Fly Fishers will hold a free casting clinic 8:30 - 11 a.m. at the Great Plains Nature Center. The group has several certified fly-casting instructors. People are encouraged to bring their own fly rods or they may use some that belong to the club. Club members can also recommend what flies work best for fishing Kansas waters this time of the year.
Reports of pheasant and quail broods continue to come in, with some people seeing quail broods with impressive numbers of young birds. This week I flushed a brood of 10-12 birds. The young were probably 2/3 the size of the two adults with them. The on-going heat wave could be a problem, but this year there’s plenty of cover and a good crop of grasshoppers and other insects.
Some longtime deer hunters were talking how infrequent it is to see yearling does, (last year’s fawns), with fawns of their own. It seemed like most used to have one fawn. I did some checking with Lloyd Fox, Kansas’ deer biologist, and he said research in other states indicates that at one time more than half of such does had fawns. Now, the number is below 20 percent. I haven’t heard a scientific explanation as per why we’re seeing the decrease.
Sunday’s Outdoors page is a bit up in the air. The problem is that we have too much outdoors news happening about now. That’s a good problem to have, though.
One option is to do a print version of the story about former basketball player Wayne Simien Jr., and his five kids, and father Wayne Sr., teaming up to land a flathead catfish of about 50 pounds last weekend. It started with a 2-year-old setting the hook when his bobber went under, and ended with his grandfather wading in to grab the fish with his bare hands a second or two before the line broke. The story has already run online.
Probably Friday or Saturday, I’ll have a feature on the expected annual return of thousands of purple martins to downtown Wichita. They show up about this time every year, and gather in a huge communal roost before migrating to South America. Many say watching the flocks flying down into just a few trees is one of the most enjoyable wildlife events in Kansas. The birds also make some of the most unenjoyable messes that need to be cleaned up, by somebody. The story talks to someone who is a big fan of the birds, and two people who hope the roost isn’t located on property they manage.
Thursday evening, I’m scheduled to go fishing amid the heat at Cheney Reservoir with an angler who says the fishing can be as hot as the temperatures this time of the year. I’m not sure when I’ll get that turned into a story. Last weekend I spent a night afloat with a southeastern Kansas couple who like to go bowfishing on their “date nights” away from their kids. That should run sometime within the next two weeks, too.
Well, the Pearce family in Newton is complete again. Last Friday I picked up Cade, our 15-month-old Lab, from the trainer. He’d been with Brice Romero, near Goddard, for three months though some factors limited them to about two months of training.
Kathy, who was ready for the dog to come home about three days after he left, and I had wondered how he’d react to being back home, after all of that time in a kennel. It was as if he’d never left. Cade remembered every routine we had, from getting the newspaper in the morning to where to sit, and stay, when it’s time to eat. He even came and checked on me at 6:15 a.m., which was when we used to get up to go work before he went to Brice.
As some saw on Facebook, his favorite toy before he left was a white five-gallon bucket that he likes to charge around the backyard with, shaking it violently. The first thing he did when we got home was to go get the bucket. After a little playing with it he headed inside and stuck his head in his toy box. The first toys out were the new ones Kathy had purchased while he was gone. One of newer toys had a squeaker inside. Fortunately it lasted only five days before the squeaker quit working.
I had his obedience at about 90 percent when I took him to Brice, and he finished him off. He also trained him to never put a bird, or retrieving dummy, down once he’s ordered to fetch it. Brice introduced Cade to the concepts of handling, meaning being directed to things he didn’t see fall. It takes time, but I’ve seen improvement each of the last four mornings I’ve taken him out to exercise and train this week.
Fortunately around the house he’s as big of a goofball as ever. More than any other big dog we’ve had, he dedicates a lot of time to playing with Kathy. Ruby Tuesday, Kathy’s eight-pound dachshund, is not impressed.
Our garden is really producing now, with lots of tomatoes, squash and egg plant. It’s a great time of the year, even with the heat.