Wyomingites Asked to Report Dead Sage Grouse During West Nile Virus Season

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Wyoming has the largest population of sage grouse, over 200,000 in all, due to the vast sagebrush ecosystem. The sage grouse are among the West's oldest inhabitants. Their theatrical mating rituals have heralded the arrival of spring on the western plainsGREEN RIVER– All Wyomingites, especially landowners, are being asked to assist in the management of the state’s trademark sage grouse populations by immediately reporting dead sage grouse so they can be tested for West Nile Virus. Past research has shown sage grouse have low resistance to the disease and is usually fatal to the birds.

Tom Christiansen, the Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse coordinator, said this year’s wet spring and warm temperatures might fuel virus production in mosquitoes, which might lead to higher numbers of sage grouse being infected with West Nile.

“Testing the birds will help us monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state,” Christiansen said. “We are particularly interested in sage grouse, as well as other game birds, that are found in remote areas that show no visible signs of death. These may occur near water holes or hay fields on private lands.”

He added that obvious roadkills should not be reported.

Although the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote, picking up the birds with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves is recommended.  The bagged carcass should then be placed into another plastic bag, preferably a trash bag, and tied. If it can’t be delivered shortly to the Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen. Christiansen emphasized the need to report dead birds quickly so they don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.