Thursday, November 21, 2019

Eastern equine encephalitis virus found in ruffed grouse

Three Itasca County ruffed grouse that appeared sick have tested positive for a mosquito-borne virus called eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), marking the first time the virus has been confirmed to cause illness in a Minnesota wild animal.

“Now that we’ve found the EEE virus in Minnesota grouse, we will continue to monitor grouse populations for signs of the disease,” said Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “It’s too soon to say how widespread the EEE virus might be in grouse populations because we only have one year of grouse sampling results from 2018.”

EEE is a rare illness in humans. People bitten by infected mosquitoes seldom develop any symptoms but the virus can be serious if they do.

The hunters who harvested the grouse brought them to DNR staff in late October after they noticed abnormal behavior in the birds – they didn’t or couldn’t fly away. When field dressing the birds, the hunters also noticed reduced muscle mass.

The DNR submitted samples from the birds to the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL). Tests concluded two and possibly a third were infected with EEE virus. The third grouse - suspected of having the virus, also had inflammation in the brain, providing further evidence that it likely also suffered from EEE. All birds tested negative for West Nile virus.

“It is rare for us to find EEE in Minnesota, but this year we’ve diagnosed the virus in these grouse and a horse,” said the VDL’s Dr. Arno Wuenschmann. “I initially suspected that West Nile virus caused the encephalitis but molecular tests conducted on the grouse in collaboration with the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University proved EEE virus was to blame.”

The EEE virus is typically found in the eastern United States and along the Gulf Coast but also has been found in other states, including Michigan and Wisconsin.

Prior to this discovery, the DNR had confirmed that wolves and moose in northeastern Minnesota had been exposed to the virus but never found animals of either species sick with the disease.

In 2018, the DNR began asking hunters to submit grouse samples for West Nile virus testing. Samples collected the first year showed 12 percent of the birds had been exposed to West Nile virus but none had been exposed to EEE.

“We’ll keep testing samples that hunters submit for both viruses,” Carstensen said. “Hunters who harvest sick grouse also can help us by contacting a nearby DNR area wildlife office  so they can submit those samples for testing, too.”

As with any wild game, care should be used when processing the animal to avoid cuts that could cause potential infection. Any game that appears abnormal – either in the field or after dressing – should not be consumed. Hunters with questions about what they harvest can contact a nearby DNR area wildlife office .

Grouse sampling information can be found on the DNR website .

Read the full MN DNR article.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

West Nile virus in ruffed grouse: Test results are in

Test results are in from the first year of a multi-state study on West Nile virus in ruffed grouse in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. These first-year results are showing that, while the virus is present in the region, exposed grouse can survive. 

In 273 samples from grouse that hunters harvested in Minnesota during 2018, 34 samples (12.5 percent) had antibodies consistent with West Nile virus exposure that were either confirmed in 10 samples (3.7 percent) or likely in 24 samples (8.8 percent). The tests did not find the presence of virus in any of the ruffed grouse hearts, meaning the birds were not sick when harvested.

In Wisconsin, West Nile virus exposure was detected in 68  of 235 (29 percent) ruffed grouse blood samples with exposure to the virus either confirmed in 44 (19 percent) or likely in 24 (10 percent), and two grouse had virus present in their hearts. In Michigan, West Nile virus exposure was detected in 28 of 213 (13 percent) ruffed grouse blood samples with exposure to the virus either confirmed in nine (4 percent) or likely in 19 (9 percent), with four having virus present in their hearts.

“The study tells us that some birds that have been exposed to West Nile virus are surviving – both juvenile and adults – and they are not sick when harvested in the fall,” said Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “But this study does not tell us about birds that may have died from the disease over the summer.”

Research in other states points to good grouse habitat as one factor that can produce birds in better condition and better able to survive stressors like West Nile virus.

The DNR had asked grouse hunters to collect two types of samples to help determine if the birds were exposed to the virus: a blood sample to determine if the grouse had developed an immune response to the virus, and the heart to look for traces of viral genetic material. As in humans, ruffed grouse can build up antibodies in an immune response to viruses they encounter. Even when the body fights off an illness, these antibodies are left behind in the blood. Hunters who submitted samples in 2018 will be mailed a letter this fall notifying them of the test results of the birds they submitted.
“Thank you to all hunters who contributed samples last year, as well as hunters who are submitting samples this season,” Roy said.

Sample collection is continuing during the 2019 grouse hunting season. Ruffed grouse hunters can voluntarily submit samples if they are willing to collect blood on filter paper strips within 30 minutes of harvest, hearts, and a few feathers for sex and age determination, and are willing to provide harvest location information.

Sample collection kits have been available for pickup at DNR area wildlife offices within the ruffed grouse range since Labor Day on a first-come first-serve basis. Due to strong interest by hunters, many offices are already out of kits, so hunters should call ahead before stopping. 

Read the full MN DNR article

Monday, October 14, 2019

Pennsylvania could lose its state bird, the Ruffed Grouse, because of climate change

PhillyVoice Staff

The Pennsylvania state bird is the Ruffed Grouse, a smallish brown-and-tan bird which prefers the state's woods and forests. If you've never seen one in person, the best time to go looking is during the summer, and you should consider trying to do sooner rather than later. 

A new study released Thursday by the National Audubon Society suggests the Ruffed Grouse, along with seven other states' state birds, could largely or entirely leave their respective states' borders in future summers because of climate change.

The scenarios posed by the Audubon Society's study are still decades away, but the changes would be drastic.

From the study:
"Audubon scientists took advantage of 140 million observations, recorded by birders and scientists, to describe where 604 North American bird species live today — an area known as their “range.” They then used the latest climate models to project how each species’s range will shift as climate change and other human impacts advance across the continent. The results are clear: Birds will be forced to relocate to find favorable homes. And they may not survive."
If climate change raises global temperatures 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, the Ruffed Grouse population would likely leave Pennsylvania altogether during the summer.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Minnesota DNR offers hunting tips, locations for new grouse hunters

Hunter walking trails wind through prime grouse habitat throughout central and northern Minnesota

Minnesota has 600 miles of hunter walking trails located in the northern forested area of the state where grouse are most abundant. There are more than 200 hunter walking trails, and most have marked parking areas at the trailhead.
“Hunter walking trails are a fun way to check out new areas and they do provide good hunting,” said Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “New hunters can follow these trails and not worry about getting lost or wandering off public land. And you can get away from trucks and four-wheelers and into some decent grouse habitat.”

An avid grouse and woodcock hunter himself, Dick has taken youth and new hunters on hunter walking trails over the years and uses the trails as a convenient way to discover new hunting areas.
The DNR partners with other organizations and land managers to maintain hunter walking trails. A $300,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to the Minnesota Ruffed Grouse Society will restore approximately 200 trailheads and 80 miles of existing trails, add 20 miles of new trails and update trail maps for land managers and trail users.

The DNR and partners developed the system of hunter walking trails beginning in the 1970s. Timber harvest around the trails is the main tool used to create quality grouse and woodcock habitat. The trails wind their way through wildlife management areas, ruffed grouse management areas, state forests and other types of public land.

Downloadable maps of hunter walking trails and more information can be found on the hunter walking trails page at

Read the full Duluth News Tribune article for more tips and info.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Maine Biologist expects 2019 solid grouse numbers to highlight bird hunting season that begins Saturday

By John Holyoke

Over three decades helping manage the state’s bird populations, biologist Brad Allen has learned a lot about the game birds — like ruffed grouse — that Mainers like to hunt.
One of the things the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s bird group leader has learned bodes well for the state’s bird hunters.
 “Grouse-hunting in Maine, I tell everybody, is always good,” Allen said. “[This year is] not going to be a boom, it’s not going to be a bust. I want to say average, but I think it’ll be slightly better than average,”
Decent weather — cool but not too cold — during the nesting season shouldn’t have hampered reproductive efforts, he said, and the population of grouse should be solid.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Grouseman - Orvis Presents Video

For wingshooting guide Steve Grossman, the hunt is about so much more than shooting a limit of birds. Ever since he was a teenager, he has devoted himself to chasing wild birds and training dogs. 

He is a student of his art, constantly learning more about how the birds respond to changes in their environment and how birddogs and hunters can work together. He's become an inspiration to his children and the younger generation of wild-bird enthusiasts.

Learn more about Steve and The Grouse Lodge

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Hunting in New Hampshire - Live for October Video

Join Northeast Regional Director of the Ruffed Grouse Society Joe Levesque as he mentors owner of ANR Design Alex Costa on his first hunting adventure. Along with friend Zach Hein the head to the north woods of New Hampshire as they hunt ruffed grouse and American woodcock. This film explores the camp culture of New England, the future of hunting, and the critical conservation issues that the Ruffed Grouse Society pursues.