GREEN RIVER - All Wyomingites, especially landowners, are again being asked to assist in the management of the state’s sage grouse populations this summer by immediately reporting dead sage grouse to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department so they can be tested for West Nile Virus.
Past research has shown sage grouse have low resistance to the disease which is usually fatal to the birds. As of July 15 the only evidence of West Nile Virus in the state was from three samples of mosquitoes collected in Goshen County according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Tom Christiansen, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse biologist, said “While there is no sign yet of an outbreak of the virus, warm nighttime temperatures are thought to enhance the ability of the virus to multiply in the gut of the mosquito. If conditions remain warm through August, we could see the virus show up this year.”
Christiansen said last year’s record breaking warm temperatures did not result in significant West Nile Virus activity in the state probably because the heat was accompanied by record breaking drought which reduced mosquito habitat.
“Testing dead birds helps us monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state,” Christiansen said. “We are particularly interested in sage grouse and other game birds 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. Christiansen emphasized the need to report dead birds to local Game and Fish personnel quickly so they don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.
For those willing to collect carcasses they might find, the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote, but 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 shortly to Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen.
(Contact: Tom Christiansen, 307-875-3223)