The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved a regulation that would allow captive breeding of greater sage grouse in the state. The law would allow specially licensed private farms to possess, breed, and sell the bird.
Captive breeding is one method some people hope will ease the downfall of sage grouse – which avoided being listed as endangered in 2015 in part because of Wyoming’s proactive conservation efforts. Supporters of captive breeding say those chicks could then be released back into the wild, and that could help boost numbers for the bird. Others are skeptical of that.
But Vice President of the Audubon Society Brian Rutledge said conservation can’t be boiled down just to sage grouse numbers.
“Our issue has never been a bird issue, it’s a habitat issue.” Rutledge said, "Raising birds in captivity to be released into non-existent habitats doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Rutledge added there are several risks to breeding sage grouse in captivity. Once they're returned to the wild, the birds don’t have the same knowledge to avoid predators. Plus, there is a risk they could carry diseases from other captive birds back out into the wild.
Wyoming legislature passed the captive breeding bill in the 2017 session, and Game and Fish was required to approve the regulation. Captive breeding of sage grouse could become legal as soon as November. Until then, Governor Matt Mead has the opportunity to review and revise the bill.