Wyomingites asked to report dead sage grouse during West Nile virus season
by Wyoming Game & Fish
July 25, 2011
All Wyomingites, especially landowners, are being asked to assist in the management of the state’s sage grouse populations this summer by immediately reporting dead sage grouse so they can be tested for West Nile Virus. Past research has shown sage grouse have low resistance to the disease and is usually fatal to the birds.
Tom Christiansen, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse biologist, said the year’s first human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in eastern Wyoming and Colorado. Wyoming’s wet spring and summer is fueling mosquito production. This could lead to higher numbers of sage grouse being infected if temperatures in August become hotter than normal.
"Warm nighttime temperatures are thought to enhance the ability of the virus to multiply in the gut of the culex tarsalis mosquito, the primary West Nile virus vector in Wyoming," Christiansen said. "But if we stay relatively cool or even normal though most of August, we probably won’t have a problem this year,"
"Testing the birds will help us monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state," Christiansen said. "We are particularly interested in sage grouse, as well as other game birds that are found in remote areas, that have no obvious injuries that might have resulted in their death. These may occur near water holes or hay fields on private lands."
He added that obvious roadkills should not be reported.
Although the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote, picking up the birds with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves is recommended. The bagged carcass should then be placed into another plastic bag, preferably a trash bag, and tied. If it can’t be delivered immediately to the Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen. Christiansen emphasized the need to report dead birds quickly so they don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.