Aug. 1, 2012

$2.50 permit required to hunt prairie chickens; follow-up surveys can help better manage harvest and target conservation programs
EMPORIA — The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has announced that a $2.50 permit will be required to hunt prairie chickens this fall. This applies to both lesser and greater prairie chickens. Permits may be purchased wherever licenses are sold and online beginning the first full week in August. The $2.50 fee is the minimum charge, with all proceeds going to vendors and automation costs.

The permit will give KDWPT biologists the ability to better identify prairie chicken hunters. Using information gathered when the permit is sold, a random sampling of those individuals will be sent a post-season survey that will be used to develop more accurate estimates of harvest and species distribution.

The lesser prairie chicken has been considered a candidate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1998, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will release a proposed rule on the status of the bird under the ESA in September. KDWPT is opposed to a federal listing of the lesser prairie chicken because it will likely hamper voluntary landowner enrollment in conservation programs that have greatly benefited lesser prairie chickens and other grassland wildlife across the state. Information from the new prairie chicken survey will help KDWPT to further justify hunting of lesser prairie chickens to the USFWS and the general public in the face of possible listing. Research has already shown that the current level of hunter harvest has negligible effects on population growth, which is much more sensitive to changes in the production of young.

“Collecting these data will provide us with the best chance to continue hunting lesser prairie chickens in the face of a pending threatened or endangered listing by the Fish and Wildlife Service,” explains Jim Pitman, KDWPT small game coordinator. “As an added bonus, we will also be able to better regulate harvest of both lesser and greater chickens and more accurately delineate their distributions. More accurate range delineations provide us with a greater ability to target conservation programs across the state to benefit both chicken species. The greater prairie chicken is not currently a candidate species for federal listing, but we included them in the permit requirement because in parts of Kansas, their populations are struggling much more than those of their smaller cousin. By including them, we are being proactive and are attempting to avert a situation similar to the one we are now facing with lesser chickens.”

Population size and distribution of both prairie chicken species have increased across western Kansas over the last 15 years, largely due to voluntary landowner enrollments in federal farm bill programs, especially the Conservation Reserve Program. Greater prairie chicken populations in the eastern one-half of the state have been declining over that same time period due in large part to inadequate fire frequency on native rangelands.

Also new for 2012, the Northwest Prairie Chicken Unit has been expanded to include all of Kansas west of U.S. Highway 281 and north of Highway 96. That unit will also now be open during the early season, Sept. 15-Oct. 15. A map of prairie chicken units may be found online at

Fall 2012 prairie chicken seasons include the following:

Early Season (Northwest and East units)

  • Sept. 15-Oct. 15
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination

Regular Season (Northwest and East units)

  • Nov. 17-Jan. 31, 2013
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination

Southwest Season

  • Nov. 17-Dec. 31
  • Daily Bag Limit: 1