MN 2019 Ruffed Grouse counts similar to last year

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were similar statewide this year to last year. 

DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations for the past 70 years and this year, DNR staff and cooperators from 14 organizations surveyed 131 established routes across the state’s forested region. 

Each year on the routes, surveyors count the number of grouse drums they hear. Drumming is the low sound male grouse make as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory and attract females ready to begin nesting. 

Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. Grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle that can vary from 8 to 11 years, and Minnesota’s most recent population peak was in 2017.

2019 survey results

The 2019 survey results for ruffed grouse were 1.5 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were 0.9, 1.1, 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, and 1.5, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.
Results this year follow a decrease from 2017 to 2018. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of Minnesota’s grouse range, counts were 1.6 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 2.1 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.8 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.7 drums per stop. 
Check the DNR’s grouse hunting webpage for the 2019 grouse survey report and grouse hunting information.

George Bird Evans Collection Available Online

The George Bird Evans Digital Collection, part of West Virginia & Regional History Center’s extensive Evans collection, contains sixty-five years of detailed hand written hunting journals, which document George and Kay’s pursuit of both woodcock and grouse behind their personally created line of Old Hemlock setters, in varied coverts mostly in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The journals are rich in the experiences and natural observations of a keen intellect and perceptive observer. They are further enhanced by his lively and expressive pen sketches which illustrate many of the entries. These unique journals were the original source material for many of his books and numerous magazine articles, and remain an important resource for understanding his and Kay’s chosen lifestyle and principled sporting ethic. 

Covering the years 1932 to 1997, the hunting journals can be downloaded in PDF format. The West Virginia & Regional History Center also holds significant additional Evans material which is not available online. Please refer to the collection finding aid to learn more about the contents of the George Bird Evans Collection.

George Bird and Kay Harris Evans generously endowed the Old Hemlock Foundation in order to preserve and support their passionate lifelong interests. Today the Foundation preserves and shares with visitors Old Hemlock, their eighteenth century home and surrounding forest near Bruceton Mills, Preston County, WV.

The Old Hemlock Foundation also offers scholarships to WVU Medical School students, provides funding for arts and literature studies in the Bruceton Mills schools, and support for the Preston County Humane Society. The Foundation actively shares the Evans legacy with ongoing outreach programs for all ages, and welcomes visits to and tours of Old Hemlock.

Visit The Collection

The Scientific Impact of West Nile on Ruffed Grouse


In working with private, state and federal partners to conduct intense research on West Nile virus and investigate other issues that might be involved in grouse declines, we’ve learned a lot.

Here’s a sample:
  • Ruffed grouse are highly-susceptible to WNV, and infected grouse suffered very high mortality, based on our 2015 lab study with Colorado State University.
    Young forest is important habitat for grouse courting and brood-rearing, but only 8 percent of Penn’s Woods is made up of young forest. Habitat loss and degradation have left grouse populations more vulnerable to threats, including West Nile virus.
    We still don’t know how many other woodland birds are vulnerable to the WNV.
  • Wild grouse are exposed to WNV throughout Pennsylvania, in good and poor habitat.

    We know this from looking for WNV and virus antibodies in hundreds of hunter-harvested grouse from 2015 through 2018. We also see evidence that the proportion of WNV survivors among harvested grouse varies with the virus’ severity in any given year.

    There is no way to know how many grouse die during the peak WNV season – July through September, but we see fewer survivors in the fall/winter harvest during severe WNV years.
  • Both young forest availability and WNV prevalence determine the fate of grouse populations.

    A 2017 Game Commission-Penn State University analysis showed habitat and WNV influence whether grouse persist in an area, whether they colonize new areas, and whether individual populations disappear over time. This gives us something to work with! We now know our management efforts will be more effective if we take disease prevalence into account when managing habitat.
  • Individual grouse in areas of highly abundant and high-quality habitat might have a higher chance of survival, based on antibody findings.

    Further, hunter-flush-rate data show grouse populations in good habitat rebounding more quickly after bad WNV years, compared to populations in more isolated or marginal habitats. This also has valuable management implications.
  • We’re more knowledgeable about the primary disease vectors, based on a 2017-18 collaboration with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s West Nile Virus Surveillance Program.

    The mosquito Culex pipiens is the primary WNV vector in human residential areas. But Game Commission trapping shows it’s rarely found in the state’s forests. Rather, the vector we must target is Culex restuans, a closely-related country cousin of Culex pipiens that prefers to target birds.

    Our 2017-18 research shows Culex restuans thrives in woodlands, occurring in each of the 10 game lands we’ve studied.
  • We know Culex restuans populations rise and fall largely due to temperature and rainfall. WNV transmission benefits from above-average spring and autumn temperatures, because warm temperatures prolong the mosquito-breeding and the WNV-transmission season. Unfortunately, we also know WNV is not going away. High-prevalence years are becoming more frequent. Eight of the past 10 years exhibited extremely high WNV prevalence.
WHAT WE KNOW NOW  --- Read the full RGS article

Pockets Of Hoosier National Forest Cut Down For Wildlife Habitat

Officials with the Hoosier National Forest are drawing attention to an effort to preserve “forest openings.” These are pockets in the forest where older trees have been cut down to make way for younger trees, shrubs and grasses. 
Hoosier National Forest Wildlife Technician Brian King says before humans started changing the landscape, these openings were created naturally through things like forest fires.
“So we’re trying to bring back this habitat that once was here and has now gone away because we as humans have kind of stopped that flow,” he says.
King says more than 4,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest is set aside for these clearings, with the average size being about six acres. They’re good habitat for species like the ruffed grouse — which the state says is on track for extinction.

Wisconsin Ruffed Grouse Drumming 2019 Counts UP 41% Over 2018

Wisconsin statewide ruffed grouse drumming activity increased 41% between 2018 and 2019, based on the roadside survey to monitor breeding grouse activity. Changes in indices to breeding grouse populations varied by region, and the statewide mean number of drums per stop was different (P= <.0001) from 2018 to 2019. Drummer densities on the Sandhill Wildlife Area in Wood County showed a decrease of 13%. 

 Read the full Wi DNR article