Regional West Nile virus monitoring effort for ruffed grouse to begin this fall

Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861
MADISON -- In collaboration with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society, and Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources will begin a multi-year monitoring program this fall looking at West Nile virus (WNV) in ruffed grouse. 
Ruffed grouse- Photo credit: DNR
Ruffed grouse.Photo credit: DNR
The DNR is asking ruffed grouse hunters for their participation in this monitoring effort. Similar to past disease monitoring efforts, the department is asking that hunters submit samples from their harvested ruffed grouse using self-sampling kits. This effort will focus on the core ruffed grouse range in the central and northern forests.
The DNR has assembled 400 self-sampling kits for ruffed grouse hunters to use in 2018. The WNV sampling kits contain detailed instructions and all the supplies needed to collect and ship one sample. Hunters will be asked to collect a small amount of blood along with the heart from their harvested grouse. 
If you hunt the central and northern forests and would like to participate in the West Nile virus monitoring effort, sampling kits can be requested through your county wildlife biologist and will be available in early September. The number of kits provided per individual may be limited to ensure samples come from a large geographic area. 
Hunters will be provided test results via email. Be aware that testing of samples will not begin until after the grouse season has closed and final results will not be available for several months after the close of the season. WNV is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and there is no evidence that WNV can be spread by handling dead birds or by consuming properly cooked game. It is one of several bird diseases afflicting native bird species.
Sick and Dead Birds ..  Read the full WI DNR article

New bird hunters learn habitat, GPS, and “Where am I?” at mentor hunt training

The Allegheny Chapter (Kane) of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) offered the second phase of its New Hunter Mentor training to ten new bird hunters on Saturday, Aug. 4, at Kinzua Bridge State Park. This training is open to any potential hunter or existing hunter that is interested in fine-tuning their skills for upland bird hunting.

The August training started with classroom instruction as to how to read a map, how to use a compass, learn to trust the GPS unit, and key habitat components for wildlife, particularly upland birds. Ten students from Elk, McKean, and Jefferson Counties attended the training sponsored by the local Allegheny Chapter of the RGS. Instructors were Rich Elliott of Brockport, Jonathan Wirth of Port Matilda, Holly Dzemyan of Smethport, and Christine Haibach of Wattsburg.

Once the trainees became familiar with the classroom learning, the entire group headed out to the woods to visit an area currently being worked on by the RGS Allegheny Chapter to improve habitat for Young Forest wildlife on Collins Pine Company lands.

Out there in the woods, the students could really see how sustainable forest management not only produces Young Forests for wildlife, but could also see how the mosaic of Young Forests interspersed with older forests, riparian areas, and forest openings serve as the cornerstone of wildlife habitats.

It’s out there in the woods that the students got to identify trees and shrubs, and learn what birds will use the habitat those trees and shrubs provide. Jonathan gave all students a hands-on experience in how to navigate with a GPS, how to orient the GPS to the maps he had pulled off the internet the day before, and how to return to your vehicle after a day of hunting. 

JoAnne Schiafone, one of the trainees, said, “I had some of this figured out before I took this course, but I didn’t know “why” things worked the way they did. This course filled in some blanks for me.”
Randy and Lucas Russell, grandfather and grandson, learned to identify Tartarian honeysuckle and got to see firsthand how the invasive honeysuckle was shading out the blackberry and raspberry brambles attempting to grow on the side of the roadway; habitat loss explained visually in real life. “I’ve always wondered what those red-berried plants were; now I know,” said Randy.

The third, and last, session on Sep. 8 will concentrate on dogs and their use as hunting companions. New hunters of any age that complete all three sessions will be eligible to attend a mentored grouse and woodcock hunt in nearby forests in October.

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