Science to Solution Series: Marking High-Risk Fences Saves Sage Grouse

March 20, 2014

PR-Web Press Release

Read the PDF of the Science to Solutions publication: “Marking High-Risk Fences Saves Sage Grouse

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) regularly joins with its partners to fund and support science that is designed to help guide conservation solutions on the ground. Today, we announce the first in our “Science to Solutions” series for the public, titled Marking High-Risk Fences Saves Sage Grouse. The next in the series will focus on the removal of conifers invading historic sagebrush-steppe.

“We’re closing the science loop to get published work out to show its relevance to a broad public audience,” said Dave Naugle, SGI science advisor and University of Montana professor.

Throughout the 11 western states, SGI supports researchers studying sage grouse and related wildlife of the sagebrush-steppe. As new information comes in, the science is used to fine-tune practices to maximize conservation benefits. Science ranges from evaluating effectiveness of individual conservation practices to producing mapping products that identify important areas to focus efforts. At every level, SGI aims to efficiently target taxpayer dollars for highest benefits.

For example, the science behind marking fences to prevent sage grouse collisions provides a useful tool for land managers to focus their efforts on marking only the fences that are most problematic for sage grouse.

Researcher Bryan Stevens studied sage grouse collisions for a graduate degree at University of Idaho in 2012. He found that flying sage grouse struck fences at a rate as high as 1.2 strikes per mile of fence during the breeding season.  Each spring in early morning darkness, males fly into “leks”  (traditionally used open areas in the sagebrush), to display and compete for females, who also have flown in to watch and select a mate. The birds have difficulty seeing barbed wire fences in the dim light.

Stevens found that snapping on white vinyl markers on top wires at three-feet intervals could reduce grouse collisions by up to 83 percent. He also identified that not all fences pose a risk with most strikes occurred close to a lek, and where the terrain was flat or gently rolling.

With that information, SGI joined forces with partners and developed a mapping tool to help land managers identify areas where collision risk was highest. The new tool now plays a key role in identifying fences for marking or removal and is also used in the planning stages to avoid locating new fences in high-risk areas.

The Science to Solutions four-page publication makes it simple for landowners and managers to access and use the planning tool. Read more SGI publications here.

Marking fences is one part of SGI’s proactive conservation programs that work closely with ranchers and partners. Fence-marking is often tied to larger projects, such as assisting landowners with rotational grazing systems that improve nesting cover for sage grouse. To date, SGI funding has made it possible for the marking or removal of more than 500 miles of high-risk fences, likely preventing more than 2,600 collisions.





The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.