The problem is not exclusive to the Badger State. The species is listed as endangered in Illinois and Missouri and has already been extirpated in Canada.
The prairie chicken’s challenges are part of a troubling trend for grassland-reliant species overall.
A study titled “Decline of North American Avifauna” and published Sept. 2019 in Science estimated grassland birds showed the largest proportional decline (53%) over the last 50 years of any breeding biome.
So as its habitat continues to get turned into subdivisions or row crops or reclaimed by forests, it’s make-or-break time for prairie chickens in Wisconsin.
Strapped by budget and personnel shortages, the DNR missed goals set in the state’s 2004-14 prairie chicken plan.
Even work to update the last plan faltered until recently.
But Alaina Gerrits, the DNR’s former assistant upland ecologist and current Vilas County wildlife biologist, did a yeoman’s job over the last 10 months to lead the effort to come up with a draft plan.