When settlers arrived in what would become Iowa in the 1830s, there were flocks of this small bird everywhere. Freshly plowed fields and the native prairie of this region of the United States only helped to increase their population. Today, the state of Iowa, and the bird's population both look very different.

Through the years, Iowans found an appetite for the meat of the small bird that typically reaches just over two pounds in size. As a result, in just over 100 years the prairie chicken, and the incredible mating display of its males, were totally wiped out.

Greater Prairie Chicken
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Photo by Mary Hammel on Unsplash
Photo by Mary Hammel on Unsplash

More prairie chickens were brought from Kansas to Iowa in three consecutive decades beginning in the 1980s, but the hopes of an increase in their population haven't materialized. Biologist Anna Buckardt Thomas told WHO, "We don't actually know why the prairie chicken isn't thriving and doing well."

The Kellerton Conservation Area, in Ringgold County in extreme south-central Iowa, is believed to be home to the only prairie chickens left in the state. Their total number, 21, is so low, it's shockingly sad.

It leads to questions that the experts ponder with trepidation. Buckardt Thomas asks, "What does that mean for conservation of the species as a whole if we're taking from other populations to add to a population that we haven't had great success with so far?"

In Iowa, that may mean the only place you'll see prairie chickens in the future is in videos. Sadly, that's pretty much the case already.

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