UW-Stevens Point students boost state threatened prairie chicken population

Published: Mar. 13, 2022 at 9:30 PM CDT
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - UW-Stevens Point students partnered with the DNR to help boost the population of the state threatened prairie chicken species. The president of the Wildlife society leading the ‘Adopt a Wildlife Area’ project said they began the project in 2017 and just committed to another three years.

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

“You know, we are just people. We only have our hands and our 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 Adopt a Wildlife Area co-leader at UWSP.

They remove invasive woody species like willow and cherry.

“Cutting down some brush and treating it with herbicide in order to promote grassland growth for the greater prairie chicken,” said Brecka.

Fixing their habitat helps them see each other from a long distance. The Buena Vista in Wisconsin Rapids is the property that holds the greatest concentration of prairie chickens in the state, around 200-250, according to Brecka.

Volunteers complete nearly 70 hours of work combined just on Sunday.

“We provide a lot of hands-on opportunities to get experience doing things that they’ll be doing when they graduate,” said Brecka.

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

“This is what I want to do in my life and as a career is working in some sort of habitat management,” said Edwards.

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

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

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

If you’re interested in seeing prairie birds ‘dance’ there is a prairie chicken festival in Wisconsin Rapids on April 9. Click here for more information.

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