Jasper County Prairie Chicken Sanctuary
Nature Preserve Area:
Location and Access:
From Newton at jct. Hwys. 33 & 130, take Hwy. 33 west 2.5 miles to blacktop road, then turn and go south 4 miles. The nature preserve is in several tracts in the vicinity.
Special Note: Entrance to this preserve is by permission only to minimize disturbance to the prairie chicken population.
This nature preserve is an example of an area dedicated primarily to maintain a population of an endangered animal. In Illinois, efforts to save the greater prairie chicken began in 1959 with the organization of the Prairie Chicken Foundation of Illinois. This group, along with The Nature Conservancy, and the Department of Natural Resources purchased several blocks of property to protect the prairie chicken population. Today, two sanctuary systems, one in Jasper County and one in Marion County, are maintained as grassland habitat for prairie chickens. Fewer than 100 prairie chickens remain in Illinois. One problem that threatens the existence of the prairie chicken is the introduced ring-necked pheasant, native to Asia. The pheasant parasitizes the prairie chicken nest with its own eggs, which then hatch earlier than the chicken's. The confused prairie chicken hen leaves her nest with the young pheasants, unaware that her parasitized nest will not produce any young prairie chickens to repopulate the sanctuary. Due to this disastrous situation, intensive management practices are vital for the continued existence of the prairie chicken in Illinois. Several other rare or endangered species of grassland birds occur at the prairie chicken sanctuaries including Henslow's sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, dickcissel, upland sandpiper, short-eared owl and northern harrier. Northern crayfish frogs can be heard calling in the preserve in early spring.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
For further information:
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Site Superintendent OR Natural Heritage Biologist, Prairie Ridge State Natural Area, 4295 North 1000th Street, Newton, IL 62448, (618/782/2685)