Free public program: prairie chickens return

OREGON — When Europeans first settled the Midwest, prairie chickens flourished. A chicken-sized bird, they’re best known for their booming during mating season which “reverberated across the Prairie State.”

From a population of millions even after farming became extensive, fewer than 100 birds remained in Illinois by 1989. The major reason for their decline is loss of habitat. Prairie chickens need large sweeps of uninterrupted grassland. Loss of genetic diversity has also been implicated.

But efforts are underway to return this important bird to its original habitat.

Bob Gillespie, a Natural Resources Coordinator with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, will relate efforts to translocate prairie chickens from Kansas to Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Newton in a free public program hosted by the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County. Gillespie grew up near Prairie Ridge State Natural Area and has worked with greater prairie chickens from a very young age. Prairie Ridge State Natural Area is home to the state’s only remaining greater prairie chickens.

The program will take place at the Kickapoo Center, 1919 N. Limekiln Rd., Oregon, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19. It is free and open to the public. Reservations are not necessary. Children are welcome in the presence of an adult. Light refreshments will be served.

Contact Sonia Vogl for more information: R.

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