NEWS

2023 wing counts indicate an increase in sage grouse reproduction

 

12/26/2023 5:01:49 PM

Cheyenne - Early estimates from Wyoming’s 2023 sage grouse wings indicate increased sage grouse reproduction. Wings from harvested chick and hen sage grouse are collected from hunters — primarily in central and southwest Wyoming — who voluntarily contribute wings by dropping them off at designated collection points during the hunting season. 

Hunters deposited wings from 1,551 chicks and 852 hens in collection barrels. In a preliminary analysis, Wyoming’s 2023 chick-to-hen ratio was 1.82 chicks/hen. It’s an increase from previous years when the reproduction ratio was at 0.8 chicks/hen. Based on these numbers, male lek attendance is expected to be slightly higher this spring.

“Good moisture in the spring and summer and quality habitat are the top two contributing factors of chick survival,” said Nyssa Whitford, Wyoming Game and Fish Department sage grouse/sagebrush biologist.

During the first month of life, chicks rely on a diet of high-protein insects with adequate habitat cover. As the bird grows, grass and forbs — like wildflowers — become another important food source. Older birds rely almost exclusively on sagebrush in their diet. 

“Sage grouse are a sagebrush obligate species and could not survive without it,” Whitford said.

Thirty-eight percent of the world’s sage grouse is in Wyoming, and the state supports more than 1,700 known, occupied leks. Wyoming is a sage grouse stronghold, Whitford said, and hunters who harvest birds provide valuable information for management. 
 
“We appreciate hunters dropping off wings in our collection barrels. This enhances our annual data collection efforts,” Whitford said.
 
A full analysis for 2023 bird populations will be available in the sage grouse job completion report, posted on the Game and Fish website in the spring.

(Breanna Ball, Public Information Officer - (breanna.ball1@wyo.gov))

- WGFD -

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