Sage Grouse populations improve
Highest counts in 20-35 years recorded in 2005 annual survey
by Wyoming Game & Fish Department
June 10, 2005
Sage grouse made a significant comeback on most leks or strutting grounds this spring across its range in Wyoming, according to preliminary reports from annual surveys.
Some leks hosted the highest number of male sage grouse in the 20-to 35-year history of the surveys. Additionally, many new leks were identified this spring, along with some previously inactive leks again attracting the trademark Wyoming species again, reports Tom Christiansen, Game and Fish Department sage grouse coordinator.
"It appears perfectly timed moisture during the spring of 2004 promoting excellent nesting and brood rearing habitat was the primary reason for the eruption in grouse numbers," Christiansen said.
He also cites the management of livestock producers during the prolonged drought likely helping the range respond more quickly to the improved moisture.
Researchers and biologists first recognized improved production last summer while monitoring radio-collared hens and conducting random brood counts. Analysis of hunter-submitted wings from the 2004 hunting season also indicated higher chick production and survival in most of the state. The wing analysis indicated 2.5 chicks per hen compared to 1.7 in 2003.
Christiansen adds that areas most heavily impacted by drought such as northeast Wyoming and by human development did not experience the sage grouse rebound as much as the relatively intact habitats that received more moisture in 2004. Final analysis of this spring’s survey information will be completed in the next few months.
"Good moisture this spring should again result in a good hatch and survival of chicks promising additional increases for the coming year," Christiansen said.
Although Christiansen is elated about two years of improved spring moisture, he cautions considerable work must be accomplished to ensure the long-term recovery of the game bird. Eight working groups have been established across the state to plot local recovery efforts. The groups are currently accepting proposals for habitat improvement projects.