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Wyoming Sage Grouse Reproduction Rates Steady, Population Still In Decline

A male sage grouse.
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servic

Wyoming's sage grouse population is declining, but reproduction rates held steady this year.

Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Leslie Schreiber said scientists can tell a lot about a bird from its wing. Based on the molting of the feathers, they can determine its gender and age.

"In the fall, hunters harvest sage grouse and deposit one wing into a wing barrel, and then Game and Fish collects those wings and that gives us a sample of how many young birds survive to the fall," she said.

Schreiber said there were 1.1 chicks per hen this fall. That's the same as last year, which won't help with population growth.

"We need a ratio of about 1.5 chicks per hen to have a growing population," she said. "Reproduction held steady between 2020 and 2019. However, we expect lek counts in 2021 to be slightly less than they were in 2020."

Schreiber said the decline is part of a normal cycle that's monitored closely by wildlife experts in the state.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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