Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge
|Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Attwater's prairie chicken
|Location||Colorado County, Texas, United States|
|Nearest city||Sealy, Texas|
|Area||10,528 acres (42.61 km2)|
|Governing body||U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, is a federally protected refugium encompassing one of the largest remnants of coastal prairie habitat remaining in southeast Texas, United States and home to one of the last populations of the critically endangered Attwater's prairie chicken, a ground-dwelling grouse of the coastal prairie ecosystem.
The 10,528 acre (43 km²) refuge, located in eastern Colorado County, approximately 60 miles (100 km) west of Houston, Texas, was established in 1972, and is one of a handful of national wildlife refuges managed specifically for an endangered species.
In the mid-1960s, the World Wildlife Fund purchased 3,500 acres (14 km2) of land to preserve some remaining coastal prairie for the Attwater's Prairie Chicken. The land was transferred to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1972, which brought the refuge up to its current acreage.
Many of the Attwater's prairie chickens in the refuge are hatched at captive breeding programs at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Texas A&M University, SeaWorld San Antonio, Abilene Zoo, Caldwell Zoo, Houston Zoo and San Antonio Zoo. Chicks are fitted with a radio transmitter and released at the refuge once they are capable of independent survival.
To maintain the prairie ecosystem, the refuge staff does prescribed burns of 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) to 3,000 acres (12 km2) annually in January or February. The burns help invigorate the grasses by removing dead stems and control the growth of brush and invasive species of plants. The staff also converts formerly cultivated land in the refuge back to prairie by replanting native grasses.
Over 250 species of birds in addition to the Attwater's prairie chicken have been observed in the refuge. Some of these include the fulvous whistling duck, black-bellied whistling duck, white-tailed hawk, northern caracara, scissor-tailed flycatcher, dickcissel, roseate spoonbill, anhinga, Sprague's pipit and sandhill crane. Mammals in the refuge include plains bison, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, and white-tailed deer.
The refuge has a five mile (8 km) auto tour loop and two hiking trails. The Pipit Trail is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and the Sycamore Trail is 1.2 miles (1.9 km).