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Natural Resources & Energy

Sage Grouse Numbers Grow For Third Year In A Row

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The number of sage grouse in Wyoming increased for the third year in a row, according the latest Wyoming Game and Fish Department survey. According to Sage Grouse Program Coordinator Tom Christiansen numbers increased this year by 16 percent.

Last year, they grew 66% but that's because Wyoming's sage grouse count fell so sharply in 2012. The bird was even under consideration to be listed as an endangered species. But this year has been wet, which has meant more food for chicks and more cover from predators.

“We’ve come out of the dire drought we were in. You know, 2012 was the hottest, driest year on record in Wyoming. And those years, sage grouse numbers were doing quite poorly and were declining,” Christiansen said.

He explained that staff and volunteers surveyed 90% of the known sage grouse mating grounds in the state and counted 42,300 male grouse.

Such annual increases aren’t as important as long term trends. Christiansen said, like other animals, sage grouse numbers rise and fall.

“They do cycle just like cottontail rabbits,” he says. “Most people in Wyoming are aware of that cycle and see it happening. Grouse are doing the same thing at the same time. So the number of bunnies people see out there on the landscape is actually a pretty good indicator of how sage grouse are doing,” Christiansen said.

He also said it’s still too early to know if Wyoming’s sage grouse conservation program, the Core Area Strategy, is helping boost the bird’s numbers.

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