An easy winter coupled with a mild spring and lots of moisture have netted a 6% increase in Wyoming Sage Grouse numbers as witnessed by spring lek counts in 2022. This good news comes on the heels of increased efforts to push for an ESA listing of these icons of the West and is a ray of much needed hope.
Wyoming is home to almost 40% of the world’s Sage Grouse population and seeing an uptick in our numbers is a win for everyone involved in the bird’s struggles. That uptick is due in large part to the condition of the habitat the birds call home. With good habitat, adult Sage Grouse are virtually predator proof as very little recorded predation has been witnessed according to sources I interviewed for our recent Sage Grouse film https://youtu.be/pjGBwfk4g_A
Despite an upward trend in the grouse’s population here in Wyoming, an estimated 80% decline in population across the bird’s range has been observed over the past 50 years or so. There are a lot of factors involved in this but habitat loss and degradation via human impact and feral horses have made the big birds more vulnerable to nest predation by animals such as ravens, leading to the decline.
Of course the big picture is complex but all of my study and research for the above film indicate that we know how to fix the problem but for some reason have opted, in large part, to defer to more “research” and have mired ourselves in bureaucratic red tape while the grouse languish and spiral downward toward a possible ESA listing and all the impacts that carries with it.
I’m very happy to see that our Wyoming birds have taken a step in the right direction this season and owing to my observations over the spring and summer of a seemingly increased number of grouse, I’m not surprised. However, we could be doing more to help these iconic birds. Buy a small game license as well as your big game tags, purchase more sporting goods and let your legislators know just how important Pittman Robertson monies are to the future of wildlife conservation. Lastly, get out and hunt a grouse or two this fall as nothing connects us more closely to the animals we love than the fair chase pursuit of them.