Home Biologist UW-Stevens Point students boost state-threatened prairie chicken population

UW-Stevens Point students boost state-threatened prairie chicken population

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) – Students at UW-Stevens Point have partnered with DNR to help increase the population of the state’s endangered prairie chicken species. The president of the Wildlife Society who leads the “Adopt a Wildlife Area” project said they started the project in 2017 and have just committed for another three years.

Since they started volunteering, there has been an increase in the number of prairie chickens in the Buena Visa Wildlife Area in Wisconsin Rapids. It’s about 12,500 acres.

“You know, we’re just people. We only have our hands and feet and we try to do a lot of the work that tractors can’t do,” said Brilyn Brecka, president of the Wildlife Society and co-lead of Adopt a Wildlife Area at the UWSP.

They eliminate invasive woody species such as willow and cherry.

“Cut down brush and treat it with herbicide to promote grassland growth for the greater prairie chicken,” Brecka said.

Staring at their habitat helps them see each other from afar. The Buena Vista in Wisconsin Rapids is the property with the largest concentration of prairie chickens in the state, about 200 to 250, according to Brecka.

Volunteers work nearly 70 hours combined on Sundays alone.

“We provide lots of hands-on opportunities to gain experience doing things they will do when they graduate,” Brecka said.

Jeffrey Edwards has been co-lead of the Adopt a Wildlife Area project for about three years.

“It’s what I want to do in my life and as a career I work in a kind of habitat management,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the project allows him to make a difference now and helps him achieve his long-term goals.

“Having these skills is going to make me more comfortable handling these things. As a co-leader, I’m also able to help lead the volunteers,” Edwards said.

Brecka said if you have land that looks like Buena Vista, you can help too. Talk to a wildlife biologist about checking out your property to see what you could do.

If you want to see the prairie birds dance, there’s a Prairie Chicken Festival in Wisconsin Rapids on April 9. Click here for more information.

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