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Every spring the Missouri Department of Conservation's Prairie Chicken Recovery Initiative sends a group out to the Kansas flint hills to rustle a flock of chickens to bring back to Wah'Kon-Tah Prairie, outside El Dorado Springs.
Once upon a time, one-third of Missouri was prairie, and that prairie was packed with prairie chickens, a strange little bird that was both the bellwether of the health of the prairie ecosystem and good eating for generations of pioneers. Now there are only 500 prairie chickens left in the state. The Missouri Department of Conservation hopes to remedy that by importing chickens from Kansas. (The eating, however, has been forbidden since 1907.) Groups have been traveling out to the flint hills every spring for the past four years to capture chickens. Last month, Riverfront Times joined them on their mission. Photos by Earl Richardson. Text by Aimee Levitt.