The Wisconsin DNR is in its third and final year of study looking at the impact of West Nile Virus on ruffed grouse.
The DNR is looking into how present the virus is in the species and the effect it could have on populations.
So far, results show the virus does not have a devastating impact on the ruffed grouse population in Wisconsin.
“About 20 to 30 percent of the grouse that we’ve sampled have antibodies to West Nile Virus which means that they’re contracted the disease but they’re building up antibodies and flushing it out of their system and actually surviving the disease,” said DNR Assistant Upland Wildlife Ecologist Alaina Gerrits.
The COVID-19 pandemic is complicating the final year of the study.
Normally DNR staff would get together and assemble sample kits to hand out to hunters. They can’t do that this year because of COVID-19. But Gerrits estimates there are about 500 unused kits out there from previous years.
“We’re just asking hunters that if you have left over kits or if you know someone who does to please send it in. Nothing in the kit expires. We felt that this was our best option instead of delaying the study or canceling it was just to try get as many samples as we could this way,” said Gerrits.
Hunters are asked to collect a small amount of blood, a few feathers, and the heart from their harvested grouse.
It will likely be next winter or spring before the final results of the study are available.