Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NY State seeks to increase spruce grouse

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the adoption of a Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan. The Spruce grouse were listed as a threatened species in New York in 1983, but were later moved to the endangered species list in 1999. As is the case with so many wildlife species, changing habitat had taken its toll. In this case the loss of boreal forests in upstate New York caused population declines which are now not likely to recover without human intervention.

Dutchess County’s ruffed grouse population has all but disappeared from the landscape. In my younger years grouse hunting was one of my favorite pastimes, these days you have to look far and wide to find one. Again, loss of habitat was and is a major contributor to the problem.

Along with the habitat problems the Spruce grouse suffers additional vulnerabilities due to its lack of fear of humans. This makes it an extremely east bird to hunt. Although it is illegal to hunt them in New York, they are sometimes mistaken for the ruffed grouse.

When making the announcement that the plan had been adopted, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, “Recommendations in the plan are intended to stabilize and improve the distribution and abundance of this rare bird species and ultimately increase its population," Commissioner Martens said. "The spruce grouse is an historic resident of New York State and represents an important and visible component of the forest community."

Residents of the Hudson Valley could go an entire lifetime without ever seeing a Spruce grouse because they inhabit the Adirondack region, and not broadly even at that. There are just a few more than a dozen fragmented populations and in total they represent barely more than 6,000 birds. Even that may be a more than generous estimate.

More info and complete Poughkeepsie Journal article

NY adopts recovery plan for rare grouse

ALBANY, N.Y. — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted a long-term plan to restore and expand the population of the endangered spruce grouse.

Spruce grouse were first listed as a threatened species in New York in 1983 and later moved to the to the endangered species list in 1999. The birds are common in Canada, Alaska and Maine, but have declined at the southern edge of their range in New York and Vermont. Both states have recovery plans in place.

More info and Complete Article

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hard times in WV for ruffed grouse


For avid grouse hunters in West Virginia, these are difficult days.   Even in a good brood year, the ruffed grouse continues to be a fragile species in the Mountain State and throughout the Appalachian region.

“I have reports this year of people going in during archery season and putting up multiple broods on their way into a tree stand in certain parts of the state,”  said DNR Biologist Keith Krantz who oversees grouse research for the agency. “I thought that was pretty encouraging.”

But even encouraging reproduction cannot counter what has become the single biggest obstacle for grouse populations in West Virginia, habitat loss.

“Grouse hunting is on the decline just based on habitat,” said Krantz. “We’re just not cutting as many trees across the state and without that early successional habitat, the grouse just doesn’t do as well and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Gone are the days of vast tracts of land timbered and left to regenerate anew.  The new growth becomes the prime living condition for the ruffed grouse.  The downturn in the housing market caused a substantial reduction in timber sales across the state.   Environmental activism is another difficult obstacle to overcome.

“The Forest Service used to cut many, many millions of board feet a year and they don’t anymore due to the pressure they’ve been put under,”  Krantz said.  “They still do some timber sales, but where it used to be more than 30-Million board feet, now it’s more like 2-Million and doesn’t get a lot of emphasis.”

The DNR has taken a more active approach to habitat restoration.  Several wildlife management areas in the state have been slated for select timber sales.  The sales are purely managed to enhance habitat, but even still are merely a drop in the bucket.

“We’re slowly working toward putting more of our areas into a greater percentage of that young frest habitat, but we own a very small chunk of real estate in West Virginia.”

Read the rest of the WVMetroNews article

Lehigh Valley Chapter Ruffed Grouse Society planting trees

The Ruffed Grouse Society's Lehigh Valley Chapter invites the public to join it for its Habitat Day Saturday, April 13, on State Game Lands 217 on the Blue Mountain.

Ruffed Grouse Society members and other volunteers will be planting young evergreen trees in an area that has been clear cut recently to benefit ruffed grouse as well as other wildlife like deer, rabbits and songbirds. The work is being supported through a $2,500 Drummer Fund Grant the chapter received from the national RGS.

Anyone interested in lending a hand should meet at 8 a.m. April 13, in the parking lot across from Boyer's Hardware, 130 Main St., Slatington. Coffee, donuts and a light lunch will be provided as part of the day.

For information, contact Jim Boburka at info@boburkavideo.com.

Snow doesn't slow down ruffed grouse

Snow that’s deep enough for skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling -– and swearing -– covers much of Wisconsin as we trudge out of March, but while wintery Aprils can plague white-tailed deer, they don’t faze ruffed grouse.

That’s especially true if the grouse can bury themselves in snow overnight for protection from predators and cold temperatures. Ruffed grouse, after all, are the Eskimos of the bird world. But instead of building shelters from blocks of snow cut with saws and shovels, grouse simply dive head first into snow banks to end a flight, or stand atop the snow and shuffle in place until submerged.

Those entry techniques become difficult as snow melts, freezes and compacts, but as long as it’s 8 inches or deeper, grouse usually make it work. Still, they prefer light, deep and fluffy snow, which is seldom a problem during North Woods winters.

My friends and I often find the grouse’s abandoned snow roosts in Ashland County while hunting deer season in late November and early December, or when snowshoeing in February. No matter the roost’s construction, we always stop to investigate, maybe because bird architecture never loses its interest.
Sometimes snow roosts are just softball-sized potholes with grouse tracks leading away. Other times they’re flanked by matching wingtips in the snow where grouse launched themselves from shallow caves.

Still other snow roosts –- called “kieppes” -– link to a collapsed tunnel. A closer look at the tunnel’s far end usually reveals the bird’s entry point. Grouse burrow the horizontal tunnel in between for one to three yards before settling into their overnight roost.

Biologists assume grouse dig these short tunnels to disguise their roosts from foxes, coyotes and bobcats, much as cottontails do when building snow tunnels to their burrows. That’s probably a safe assumption, but there’s no doubting the thermal protection of the roost itself.

There’s been lots of research into the ruffed grouse’s “thermal energetics.” That’s the temperature where grouse must increase their metabolism and body heat to maintain proper functions.

When must grouse start burning extra energy? Well, some experts say it’s 40 degrees and other say it’s 28 degrees. Either way, ruffed grouse are built for harsh winters, and that means surviving temperatures far colder than the 30s.

Scott Walter, the Department of Natural Resources’ upland ecologist, said when he was conducting research with students at UW-Richland Center before his DNR days, he calculated that grouse roosting beneath snow burned 2.5 times less energy than those roosting above it.

Ruffed Grouse Society Annual outdoor youth event set in Marshfield WI

The West Central Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society will host its annual Youth Education Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 27 at the Les & Melody Bergdahl property, 11192 Bluff Drive, Marshfield.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. Each youth participating will receive a free hat.

Supervised activities will include hunter safety, archery, rifle range, BB gun shooting, laser shoot and fly fishing. Equipment will be provided to those who need it.

In addition, there will be dog demonstrations. A round of sporting clays is available to all youths ages 12 to 18 with parent or guardian (guns and ammo provided), and an introductory archery lesson (bows provided) is being offered.

The free rain-or-shine event, which includes lunch, is open to youngsters ages 18 and younger. Advance registration is not required. Participants are advised to bring tick repellent and wear waterproof footwear.

For more information and directions, call Rich Chronquist at 715-387-1163 (days), 715-387-3875 (evenings) or email rchronquist@hotmail.com.

Original Marshfield Herald Article

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Walker appoints Zimmer to Natural Resources Board

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker has appointed wildlife biologist Gary Zimmer to the Natural Resources Board.

He announced the appointment Friday during a tour of forestry businesses in northwestern Wisconsin.
The seven-member board sets policy for the Department of Natural Resources.

Zimmer workers as a regional wildlife biologist at the Ruffed Grouse Society. He also worked 18 years for the U.S. Forest Service and for 12 of those years he was a district biologist.

Walker says Zimmer has a long and distinguished career and his knowledge will be a "huge asset" to the board. The governor says Zimmer will be able to advocate for sustainable ways to manage the state's forests.