Landowners in easternNew Mexicomay see low-flying helicopters this spring as state wildlife agencies conduct a large-scale aerial survey of lesser prairie chicken booming grounds across the High Plains region.
Helicopters will fly at 35 to 40 mph about 80 feet above ground over 200 85-square-mile blocks of property in and around the estimated range of the species in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Flights were scheduled to begin around March 30 and to conclude in mid-May. Towns, feedlots and houses will be avoided, and pilots will make special efforts to avoid disturbing livestock.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will join wildlife agencies fromTexas,Oklahoma,Kansas, and Colorado, West Ecosystems, Inc., andTexasTechUniversityin the survey. The lesser prairie chicken is under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“These surveys will allow state fish and wildlife agencies to monitor population trends of the species range-wide,” said Grant Beauprez, the Department’s Portales-based lesser prairie chicken biologist. “The data, combined with other ongoing conservation efforts, will help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make a decision about whether to list the species.”
Information from the surveys also will be used to help conserve the bird in partnership with landowners and private industries, including oil and gas, wind energy and electric utilities.