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Prairie bird numbers decline due to drought in South Dakota

Weather, one of every hunter’s most-fickle mistresses, has been particularly unkind to South Dakota this year.

A dry, warm spring, followed by a hot and even-drier summer has kept the grass from growing to it’s full potential, the Capital Journal reported . The flowers, shrubs and clovers that dot the grassland also have suffered from the lack of rain. And, by anecdotal accounts anyway, there are fewer insects on the landscape.

Extreme heat, extreme dryness, grass that’s too short and a lack of bugs all conspire to make being a baby grouse a losing proposition. With too-short grass, chicks become more vulnerable to predators. When it’s too hot, they die of heat exhaustion. And, when there are not enough bugs to go around, the baby birds starve to death.

That’s troubling news to those hunters who like chasing North America’s native, game birds.

Grouse populations, specifically greater prairie chickens and sharptail grouse, which fill the state’s definition of prairie grouse, tend to be pretty cyclical in nature. Neither species is terribly long-lived.

So, when there’s a…

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