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Wing Data Indicates Sage Grouse Population Slide Will Continue

Published Dec. 11, 2019 By Angus M. Thuermer Jr. | Photo Credit Rick McEwan

Photo Credit: Rick McEwan

There's little prospect for Wyoming's greater sage grouse population to grow next year and reverse a three-year slide, new data from Wyoming Game and Fish Department suggests.

A count of hunter-supplied sage grouse wings show a low ratio of chicks compared to hens, a Game and Fish biologist told WyoFile on Friday, which portend a continuing population decrease.

Hunters drop the wings into barrel at strategic roadside locations during the hunting season.  The ratio indicates how successful the brood-rearing season was in a particular year.

Game and Fish workers collect them for the analysis. The wings — most of which came from central and southwest Wyoming this fall — help determine the status of the imperiled bird, recently a candidate for protection under federal environmental laws.

The preliminary analysis revealed 1.1 chicks per hen in 2019, said Leslie Schreiber, the agency’s sage grouse and sagebrush biologist. For the population to expand, there needs to be 1.5 chicks per hen, she said.

The ratio necessary to maintain a stable population is difficult to tease out, she said. In a statement Monday, Game and Fish put the average population-maintenance ratio at 1.2 chicks per hen.

Biologists counted 667 hen wings and 740 chick wings, according to Game and Fish. 2019’s 1.1 ratio brings the figure “close to the population-maintenance ratio,” the agency wrote.


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