Partnership brings sharp-tailed grouse to Eastern Washington

(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)

Once plentiful population, exceeding 100,000 in the state of Washington, the sharp-tailed grouse population has over time dwindled to less than 1,000. (WDFW photo)

WDFW works with Canadian agency to bring back population of sharp-tailed grouse…

A massive partnership headed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and their Canadian counterparts is working to bring back the sharp-tailed grouse population in the state according to a press release by the WDFW.

The once plentiful population, exceeding 100,000 in the state, has over time dwindled to less than 1,000 due to human population expansion and loss of habitat. The low numbers have put the grouse on Washington’s endangered species list, the release said.

In April, the WDFW and the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, FLNRORD for short, paired together on a two-week project to capture and transplant up to 40 grouse across the border from the abundant population in British Columbia.

Biologists for the WDFW had a big task ahead of them as capturing the necessary grouse meant early mornings and tight timelines to get the job done.

The team of biologists began the task in the 70-Mile House area in British Columbia with the ultimate task of getting the birds to the Scotch Creek and Tunk Valley locations in the Okanogan Valley, the release said.

Capturing the grouse meant the team needed to be in place by 5 a.m. at the lek-mating grounds, which is the most efficient time to capture the grouse, the release said. In order to be in place by 5 a.m., the biologists had to leave from their base of operation as early as 2:30 a.m.

Once captured, the grouse need to be reintroduced to their new environment within ten hours to reduce stress on them and ease their transition. However, in that ten hours each bird must be examined and processed by biologists, taken to a Canadian vetrinarian for examination, travel roughly 300 miles to the U.S.-Canada border, and then re-examined by American vetrinarians and more biologists once across the border, according to the release.

In total, 19 males and 19 females were captured and relocated, the release said, adding that about half of the captured birds were fitted with transmitters for tracking.

The relocated grouse were then released onto WDFW sites and private lands. All were released at active leks where grouse were present.

The partnership on the project included help and resources from the Colville Confederated Tribes, Douglas County PUD, Okanogan Conservation District, and the support of numerous private landowners, the release said.

Early indications from the transmitted data through the end of April show the relocated grouse have remained in the area they were released in, which is a positive sign the release said.