GREEN RIVER - Sage grouse hunting season is now open in most of the state. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department requests all sage-grouse hunters drop one wing from each bird they harvest in sage grouse wing collection barrels in the field.
Game and Fish biologists have placed the marked barrels at major access roads to popular hunting areas. On their way out of the field, hunters are encouraged to deposit one wing from each grouse harvested in the barrel.
Biologists can determine the age and sex of the harvested birds by examining their wings. Age and sex are valuable information for determining reproduction rates and, ultimately, population trends. In addition to the wing data, biologists count the number of male birds on spring strutting grounds (leks) and try to get a sample of brood counts after the chicks have hatched. Together, these data provide wildlife managers a picture of the overall population trend.
“The wing data we get from harvested birds is very valuable to us,” said Patrick Burke, wildlife biologist for Green River. “It’s one of our main tools for looking at summer chick survival and provides our best estimate of how many young birds will be available to be recruited into the adult population in the spring. We really appreciate the cooperation we’ve gotten from sage grouse hunters in past years and hope for a good sample again this year.”
Burke said results from last year’s wing barrel submissions was a ratio of 0.76 chicks per hen in Southwest Wyoming.
“Ratios of 1.3 to 1.7 chicks per hen are typically needed to maintain population stability,” Burke said. “Ratios above 1.8 chicks per hen usually suggest an increasing grouse population. Some early observations from this spring suggest that sage grouse may have had better nesting success this year than last year, but we’ll need the data from wing submissions to verify if we actually had better chick production or not this year.”
(Contact: Lucy Wold (307) 875-3223)