Since they’re looking for a thicket, they don’t perceive narrow fencing lines as a threat, a fatal mistake, Wolfe figured. "They hit steel wire at 60 mph.”
The finding led biologists to focus on "ground management,” working with landowners to reduce the threat by removing unnecessary fences and by making existing ones more visible to the birds. They did that by hanging small pieces of vinyl house siding on them.
So far, technicians have used vinyl pieces to mark 140 miles of fence, a tiny fraction of existing fences. But it is working. In the marked areas, Wolfe said, "we’ve not had a single collision.”
Researchers now are trying to evaluate the effect of a growing presence on the prairies — windpower generators and transmission lines.
For the past decade, technicians have used transmitters the size of a wristwatch to track the lesser prairie chicken, a candidate for listing as an endangered species.