Preliminary numbers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department show sage grouse reproduction is slightly up compared to last year.
Game and Fish collected around 1,400 hen and chick wings from hunters in central and southwest Wyoming in mid to late September. From that, biologists determined there were 1.1 chicks per hen this year.
Game and Fish sage grouse and sagebrush biologist Leslie Schreiber said that rate is close to what research shows is needed to sustain a population but is below what indicates a growing population.
"This is based on range wide, western U.S. studies, we believe we need 1.5 per hen recruited into the fall population to have that population grow based on the following spring's lek counts," she said.
Game and Fish, though, is still expecting a slightly lower this spring. Schreiber said this report is not a complete picture of the state's sage grouse population.
"The lek? counts in the spring, those are the data that we key in to see how sage grouse populations are really doing. This wing data we get in the fall kind of just points towards what to expect in the spring," she said.
Schreiber added that late spring blizzards this year caused initial concern about numbers since chicks must rely on mother hens in their early stages of life, and she was pleasantly surprised with the initial numbers.
"Good moisture and habitat contributes to chick survival. During their first month of life, sage grouse chicks rely on a high-protein diet of insects. Spring and summer rains lead to increased grass and forbs like wildflowers, which in turn leads to more insects available for young bird," read a Game and Fish press release.
Sage grouse populations naturally fluctuate, though as WyoFile reports, numbers have been down the past couple of years.
Wyoming holds around 38 percent of the world's greater sage grouse population.
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