Wisconsin confirms first West Nile in grouse

Wisconsin's first confirmed cases of West Nile virus in ruffed grouse were reported Tuesday by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR said that West Nile was confirmed in three of 16 grouse tested so far. The DNR said the results are still preliminary because another 238 grouse samples remain to be tested.

The agency is testing both sickly grouse that were turned in to wildlife officials and grouse blood samples submitted by hunter volunteers in the field.

Wildlife researchers are concerned that West Nile virus may be one factor leading to an unusually rapid and steep decline in grouse numbers in recent years. Researchers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan this winter are testing hundreds of grouse samples obtained by hunters from birds shot last fall to see how prevalent the disease is in the popular game bird.

Michigan already had five positive West Nile hits in 2018 and officials in Pennsylvania say West Nile may already be a big enough factor there to spur grouse population declines, especially in areas where the bird is already stressed by poor habitat conditions.

After the Pennsylvania study showed problems, wildlife managers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan began to wonder if the recent, sharp downturn in grouse numbers in the Midwest may be related to the virus, leading to the region-wide testing effort last fall. Minnesota grouse drumming was down 29 percent in 2018 from 2017.

Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader for the Minnesota DNR, said her agency has not yet received any results from Minnesota grouse tested for West Nile. She expects the first results by March.

WI 2018 Grouse season could prove to be mixed bag

JERRY DAVIS For the State Journal 

Warm, humid weather was not conducive to hunting grouse coverts opening weekend, but those persons who were afield had some success seeing or hearing ruffed grouse and American woodcock. 

The woodcock season opens Saturday, Sept. 22. 

Some hunters did take a bird home, too. Some good news came from the team from Missouri who are trapping birds, 100 each of three years, in trade for grouse habitat improvement in Wisconsin. They reached their goal and were able to stay a bit longer to even out the ratio of males to females. They will return for a second trapping next year. 

“They captured and then released healthy birds very soon after capture, taking them south the same day,” said Mark Witecha, upland bird biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “It took them a while to get started, in part because there is so much good grouse habitat in Wisconsin.” 

Wisconsin biologists learned from the birds, too, before they left for the “Show Me” state. Birds were weighed and blood samples were taken to test for West Nile Virus. 

During the trapping, just walking in to check traps, the team flushed a fair number of birds, including coveys of 4 to 6 young birds. 

Birds were trapped in five Wisconsin counties, and several locations in each county.

Read the full State Journal article 


By Scott Johnson Grand Rapids Police Chief Where have all the ruffed grouse gone? 

After all, this is the first week of the hunting season. Somehow, regardless of the 10-year cycles, there just don’t seem to be as many birds in the woods. I am sure wildlife biologists can provide their scientific best guess, but I’m not really sure it matters. After all, the purpose never was to see how many grouse you could return home with after a hunting trip. 

Growing up, we never called them ruffed grouse. I think I was a teenager before I knew that is what they were called. To us it was, “Going partridge hunting,” and it was an annual fall tradition. My father would take my younger brother and me to “The Falls” to visit relatives and spend three days in the woods. We usually each got a partridge or two. Our dad taught us to clean the birds and then they would go into the freezer. He taught us many things about the woods and the history of the land. 

There is just something about walking down a logging trail with the crimson and yellow leaves, a coolness in the air, as the sun is rising further over the horizon. It is about the connection to each other and the woods. 

Read the rest of the Herald Review article

Outdoor Bound TV Bowen Lodge Minnesota Grouse and Woodcock Hunting EP147 Video

This week on Outdoor Bound TV, we get ready to hit the woods at famous Bowen Lodge in Northern Minnesota for a little October grouse and woodcock hunting with a group of friends, who gather each year, from all over the U.S., to take part in this special weekend. Come on along, as it's all about good friends, good food and great hunting.

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