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Sage grouse farming flies forward, hoping to dodge a crash

The difficulty of simulating leks and getting captive sage grouse to breed is on display right now in Bighorn Basin flight pens. by Mike Koshmrl March 31, 2022





POWELL — Owls were to blame for the sage grouse carcasses that littered the grassy flight pen floors some mornings.

At night the birds of prey would perch atop the pens. With an innate fear of raptors, their netted-in quarry would flee. The captive grouse raised by the Diamond Wings Upland Game Birds are forceful fliers, and the ensuing collisions with their fenced boundaries often proved fatal.

Diamond Wings Manager Karl Bear, who’s dedicated the last year to collecting eggs, hatching and raising the iconic grouse of the high desert, hasn’t kept a precise collision-killed bird headcount. But until troubleshooting solved the problem, strikes were the largest factor that trimmed his flock from 114 healthy, hatched chicks down to the 51 yearling adults that remained alive in mid-March, he said.

“They have powerful wings, and they would get a lot of momentum,” Bear said. “They maintain their wild [instincts] and they’d fly up and hit their heads. That was pretty difficult.”

But at least, he added, the grouse weren’t getting decapitated. That happens. An owl or hawk learns to land on the pens and the panicked farmed game birds fly up into the netting, which is only large enough to admit their heads. Deadly talons await. Read full article HERE