Game And Fish Department Asks Public To Report Dead Sage Grouse

Jul 23, 2020

West Nile Virus can be incredibly deadly in sage grouse.
Credit Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) is asking landowners and outdoor recreationists to report dead sage grouse they find as part of an ongoing effort to track West Nile Virus (WNV) outbreaks in the species.

"Sage grouse is a really important bird on the Wyoming landscape and we know that sage grouse have a really low resistance to West Nile Virus, and it's typically fatal to them. It's a disease that in the past has impacted a pretty large percentage of sage grouse," Sara DiRienzo, Public Information Officer with WGFD, said.

While there hasn't been any indication of an outbreak yet this year, WNV testing is part of routine monitoring.

"Because we know it's happened before, we know it could happen again, and so this is part of our routine monitoring," DiRienzo said.

Game and Fish isn't interested in collecting birds that have an obvious cause of death such as predation or roadkill.

During WNV season, which runs through early fall when the mosquito numbers die down, those who find a sage grouse with no apparent cause of death should collect it using an inverted plastic bag and gloves. The bird should then be double bagged and brought to a WGFD field station or frozen until it can be transported to a field station. Those who are uncomfortable picking up the bird can report its location to Game and Fish and they will collect it.

Collection or reporting should happen as soon as possible so that the carcass doesn't rot. According to DiRienzo, disease can be transferred to a person after handling a dead animal, but the risk of contracting WNV from dead sage grouse is nearly nonexistent.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.