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Attwater Prairie Chicken
National Wildlife Refuge


The refuge's namesake, the Attwater's prairie chicken, was once abundant on the Texas coastal prairies.  Today, their numbers have been reduced to two small flocks.
P.O. Box 519
Eagle Lake, TX   77434
E-mail: John_Magera@fws.gov
Phone Number: 979-234-3021
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
http://www.fws.gov/refuge/attwater_prairie_chicken/
                     Endangered Attwater's prairie chicken.
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  Overview
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge
Over a century ago, one million Attwater's prairie-chickens graced the Texas and Louisiana gulf coastal prairie. Each spring, males gathered to perform an elaborate courtship ritual. They inflated their yellow air sacs and emitted a strange, booming sound across a sea of grasses.

Today, less than one percent of coastal prairies remain. With so little of its home left, the Attwater's prairie-chicken has come dangerously close to following the passenger pigeon to extinction.

You may not see the birds when you visit the refuge, but they are here, valiantly struggling to keep their speices alive, with a lot of help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. Their presence deepens the experience of a visit among breathtaking spring wildflowers and virgin tallgrass prairie.


Getting There . . .
From Houston: Take I-10 west to Sealy. Take exit 720. Drive south 1 mile on Highway 36, then right on Texas Farm to Market Road (FM)3013 for 10 miles.

From San Antonio: Take I-10 east to Sealy. Take Exit 720. Drive south 1 mile on Highway 36, then right on Texas Farm to Market Road (FM)3013 for 10 miles.

From Eagle Lake: Take FM 3013 northeast for 6.5 miles.


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Wildlife and Habitat

The refuge supports about 50 species of mammals, most of which are nocturnal. Night time prowlers include bobcats, coyotes, and the nine-banded armadillos. During the day, you'll have a good chance of seeing bison. Imagine a time when these animals darkened the prairies as far as you can see.

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History
Attwater's prairie-chickens once had some 6 million acres of homeland. The prairies they knew extended along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, north to the Bayou Teche area in Louisiana and inland some 75 miles. Grasses of many species waved in the winds including little bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Interpretation
Photography
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
Several management techniques are outlined in the Attwater's Prairie Chicken Recovery Plan that are meant to save the species from extinction and to remove it from the endangered species list.

Population mangement by captive breeding and reintroduction efforts is one of the techniques used at the refuge. With so few birds left, a captive breeding program offers the best hope for saving the species. The first chicks were hatched at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas in 1992. In addition, the Houston Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, the Abilene Zoo, Caldwell Zoo, and Sea World in San Antonio, all take part in raising birds destined to return to the wild.

Managing habitat by recreating a prairie where lightning ignited fires and millions of bison grazed is a tough assignment that refuge staff have undertaken. Prescribed burns, grazing management, and planting native grases are slowly turning back the clock to reveal a landscape from an earlier century.

Predators play an important role in ecosystem function. But, with so few birds left, refuge staff must manage mammalian predators during nesting season as long as bird numbers are drastically low. Managing predators during the release of captive breed chicks gives the prairie-chickens a head start getting used to life in the wild.

Refuge staff plant 50 - 100 acres in small food plots annually to make sure the prairie-chickens have plenty to eat. Soybeans and sunflowers also provide shelter and an abundant source of insects for chicks during the summer months. Other wildlife species benefit from these food plots as well.