Date of this Version
The Prairie Naturalist • 50(1): June 2018
Sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus; STGR) occur throughout much of the northern Great Plains, and historically were suspected to have ranged as far south as Kansas (Connelly et al. 1998). Sharp-tailed grouse were the dominant grouse in Nebraska 200 years ago, but early settlers and their associated agricultural practices extirpated STGR from much of their former range, including Kansas and southern Nebraska (Sisson 1976, Johnsgard 2016). During the period of initial land conversion, the greater prairie-chicken (T. cupido; GRPC) filled the void, benefiting from small plots of cropland providing winter forage, and outcompeting the STGR (Johnsgard and Wood 1968, Svedarsky et al. 2000, Johnsgard 2016). However, as agriculture intensified, both grouse species declined throughout their historic and acquired ranges (Johnsgard and Wood 1968, Sisson 1976). In areas where both grouse species occurred sympatric, they were hunted until 1929 when hunting seasons were closed due to low populations (Sisson 1976). Unfortunately, a drought exacerbated those declines, and prairie grouse did not reach pre-drought population levels until about 1950. Since then, both species have been relatively stable in their remaining core habitats in Nebraska, which includes the Sandhills for both species (Sisson 1976, Sharpe et al. 2001).