Wisconsin’s vanishing prairie chickens
Wildlife expert to speak at Winchester Academy
Peggy Farrell will discuss Wisconsin’s prairie chickens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Hosted by Winchester Academy, the program is free and open to the public.
Farrell is coordinator for the Prairie Chicken Viewing Project at the Buena Vista Grasslands Wildlife Area near Plover.
As one of four grouse species here, prairie chicken range historically was in the native grasslands of the southern third of the Wisconsin. By the end of the logging boom in the late 1800s they inhabited every corner of the state.
As recently as 1930, their state population was estimated at more than 54,000 birds. Today, however, biologists estimate about 1,500 prairie chickens remain in the state, relegated to small habitat clusters in central Wisconsin.
Each April, Farrell participates in an annual census of prairie chickens, along with other biologists and volunteers. Beginning in the pre-dawn hours in Portage County, and led by flashlight, the count takes place during the species’ annual breeding period. The males, or cocks, compete on leks, or dancing grounds, for the chance to mate with hens.
“There’s no performance like it,” says Farrell, who coordinates viewing blinds for UW-Stevens Point. “It’s a sight that few people are privileged to witness in Wisconsin these days. And one that, in the view of many, may not be available for long. We’re facing the prospect of losing them entirely or having just a ‘zoo’ population.”
Farrell’s program will focus on the biology, behavior and current status of Wisconsin’s prairie chickens through personal stories, unique photos, and one-of-a-kind video.
In addition to her work with prairie chickens, Farrell is also director of the North American Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program. She has mentored new deer and turkey hunters, coached beginning shooters, coordinated hundreds of BOW workshops in Wisconsin, and created pilot workshops for new programs in other states.
Farrell’s outdoor writing has been published in magazines including Wisconsin Natural Resources, North American Hunter, and North American Fisherman and has been featured in a variety of newspapers and on-line publications.
Farrell has a master’s degree in environmental education from UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources and is an instructor for an environmental literacy course for college students titled “People, Resources and the Biosphere.”
Winchester Academy is funded through sponsors and tax-deductible donations. This program is sponsored by Anita and Bob Olson.
For more information about Winchester Academy, check winchesteracademywaupaca.org, follow on Facebook, or contact Executive Director Ann Buerger Linden at 715-258-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.