Western Biologists Say Sage Grouse Numbers Surged in 2014 and 2015
August 3, 2015
(Photo right by Rick McEwan: Two males take a fighting leap during spring courtship rituals on a mating lek in Wyoming.)
The following story is excerpted from this article by Phil Taylor, which appeared today in E&E News.
Greater sage grouse numbers in the West have grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013, marking what could be a significant rebound to the bird’s previous several years of decline, according to scientists in Western states.
Western state biologists said they spotted 80,284 male sage grouse across the West in 2015, a 40 percent jump over the 57,399 that were spotted in 2014 and 63 percent over the 49,397 that were spotted in 2013, according to yet-to-be-published research compiled by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and shared with Greenwire.
Sage grouse experts caution against drawing conclusions from the two-year spike, noting that sage grouse populations appear to fluctuate on roughly decadelong cycles and are influenced in the short term by precipitation.
Yet the new data from state fish and game agencies is undeniably good news for Western states that are fighting to keep the bird from being listed under the Endangered Species Act. The WAFWA data are being sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service to inform its pending decision on whether grouse need ESA protection.
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.