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Prairie Chicken's 1,165-Mile Journey Baffles Missouri Biologists

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We've told you about "Lonesome Chuck," whose patience paid off for a mate, but now another bird is catching the eye of biologists for a very different reason.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We've told you about "Lonesome Chuck," whose patience paid off for a mate, but now another bird is catching the eye of biologists for a very different reason.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says a female prairie chicken wearing a GPS collar recently traveled 1,165 miles, in big circles, in southern Iowa and northern Missouri.

According to MDC, the hen was trapped in western Nebraska and released in Iowa on April 4 near the Missouri border for a chicken restoration program. But that's when her travels began.

MDC says the path included, "a northerly jaunt in Iowa after her release; a southerly loop into Missouri and then north back into Iowa; a visit to St. Joseph on Missouri's western boundary; a swing east past Kirksville in the state's north central region; a move back to Iowa and then flights past the bridges of Madison County southwest of Des Moines; a second trip to St. Joseph; a second visit to the Trenton, Mo., area; then a slow march back through northwest Missouri into Iowa where on July 29 she was feeding and nesting a couple of counties north of the state line near Kent, Iowa."

"It's neat that she's capable of traveling that far, but we hope all the hens don't do that or we won't get any reproduction," said Len Gilmore, a wildlife management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), who studies prairie chickens.

Prairie chickens are endangered in Missouri. The MDC says slightly more than 100 prairie chickens remain in the Show-Me State where hundreds of thousands once roamed.

In April, "Lonesome Chuck" was the only dominant male prairie chicken left in the Shelton Conservation area near Lockwood. But weeks later, conservation agent Derek Stockton found a nest of eggs as he was tracking a hen that had flown in from El Dorado Springs, Mo. for the conservation department. More than a dozen chicks hatched from the nest. That hen is still being tracked.

The MDC also says another flock re-established at the Wah'Kon-Tah Prairie near El Dorado Springs, Mo., is holding steady with 40 to 50 prairie chickens.


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