Prairie-chickens once thrived in the prairies of Iowa, but by just after 1900, they were on the verge of extinction. Today, these beautiful birds with a unique mating ritual can be found in only 9 of Iowa's 99 counties.
This hour, we look at the possible resurgence of the "Greater prairie-chicken" in Iowa and the upper midwest with author and prairie habitat team supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Greg Hoch. His new book, just out from the University of Iowa Press, is "Booming from the Mists of Nowhere; the Story of the Greater Prairie-Chicken." Also on the program is Randy Arndt, Grand River grasslands Site Manager of the Dunn Ranch in southern Iowa and northern Missouri. Arndt oversees this Nature Conservancy project. This is the fifth year that the Conservancy has introduced prairie-chickens to the area.
For author and naturalist Hoch, working to re-establish prairie-chickens is a dream job. He told Charity, "these birds have just tugged at my heart-strings." He tells us that there were so many of the birds around when the first settlers arrived that they were "sick of eating them." Hoch says the early residents would collect bushel-baskets full of eggs and would trap hundreds of birds at a time. By 1904, he told us, the prairie-chickens were on the verge of dying out. Luckily, he says the very first game laws established in the upper midwest were intended to save the species, and now a number of groups ranging from the Iowa and Minnesota D.N.R, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy are fighting to get the beautiful chickens to thrive once again.