A bird once thought to be nearing extinction has made a remarkable comeback on the eastern Colorado plains. In fact, the comeback has been so great that a hunting season for the bird is open for only the second time since 1937, and applications are now available.
The greater prairie chicken, a member of Colorado's endangered species list between 1973 and 1993, has been reintroduced through recovery efforts and habitat programs.
"I think it's great that they have done what they have to get the population of prairie chickens back to a desirable level," Dave Hutton of Craig Sports said. "Everyone who hunts them should be ready to go, because they've certainly had a long enough wait."
Last year, 47 hunters received greater prairie chicken permits, with 44 shotgun/archery permit holders taking 19 birds. Falconers, who were unsuccessful in last year's hunt, can also apply for this special season.
"This is only the second hunt for greater prairie chickens since 1937," said Ed Gorman, wildlife biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). "Landowner's efforts in creating and improving habitat during the past decade have enabled birds to make such a great comeback that these limited seasons are possible."
All hunting for prairie chickens will take place on private land in Yuma County, north of Colorado Highway 36. Prior to submitting applications, hunters must obtain permission from landowners in the area, and provide contact information for the landowner on the application form.
Three hundred, two-bird permits are available for $20 plus a $3, non-refundable, processing fee. The deadline for submitting an application for the limited hunt is June 30.
Shotgun and archery season will be Sept. 15-30. The falconry season will be Sept. 15-Oct. 31.
The estimated fall population of prairie chickens is between 10,000 and 15,000 birds, up from a low of 600 birds in 1973.
For more information on greater prairie chicken hunting, log on to the DOW Web site at www.dnr.state.co.us/cdnr_news/wildlife/2001529131428.html