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Grouse Numbers?


bassman186

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Does anyone know how the grouse numbers for the BWCA are looking this year?

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How about the grouse counts for the state? I am assuming they will be up statewide, but has anybody heard?

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Ok, I guess iwas a wrong. This is from the DNR web site.

News Releases
Ruffed grouse count decline may be related to survey conditions (2004-06-08)
Wildlife biologists with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) say an unexpected decline in ruffed grouse survey numbers may be related to inclement spring weather during the time when counts were conducted.

Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of ruffed grouse ‘drums’ heard by DNR staff and volunteers along specified routes in the state’s ruffed grouse range. Male ruffed grouse loudly beat their wings in mating displays each spring.

According to John Erb, a wildlife research biologist in Grand Rapids, the survey indicated an 8 percent decline in drums heard on routes in the northwest and a 17 percent decline in the northeast, while the north-central and central hardwoods regional counts remained stable. In southeastern Minnesota, drumming counts increased 17 percent.

For the past 55 years, DNR biologists have tracked ruffed grouse populations as they rise and fall in an approximate 10-year cycle. Drumming counts had increased slightly last year, prompting hope that the cycle was on the upswing. Statewide, drumming counts were down 11 percent compared with last year.

"It remains unclear whether the lack of an apparent increase in northern zones represents a real change in the population or whether it is just a result of sampling variability," Erb said. "Overall, winter conditions did not appear detrimental to ruffed grouse and historic patterns suggest we should have begun the increase in the grouse cycle. It is possible that the inclement spring weather may have simply delayed or reduced drumming intensity in many areas."

Erb said that this uncertainty highlights the fact that the drumming count survey is most valuable as a long-term trend indicator, and that year-to-year changes should be interpreted cautiously.

Minnesota continues as a leader in grouse hunting opportunities, with cyclic population lows often exceeding grouse peaks in other regions. The ruffed grouse 10-year population cycle occurs naturally. However, hunters have helped enhance populations overall through hunting license fees that help fund DNR habitat programs to provide grouse with improved food and cover. One such program is cooperative work between DNR wildlife managers and foresters to improve grouse habitat in state forests.

SHARP-TAILED GROUSE NUMBERS INCREASE

Erb also reported that sharp-tailed grouse numbers increased in both the northwest and east-central parts of their range. Observers look for male sharptails dancing on traditional mating areas, called leks. For comparable leks monitored in 2003 and 2004, surveyors counted 15 percent more birds in the east-central range and 31 percent more in the northwest range.

Throughout the past 15 years, sharptail population fluctuations have mirrored the ruffed grouse population cycle. However, superimposed on these periodic changes, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long haul as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keeps trees from overtaking the open brushlands that sharp-tailed grouse need to survive.

In addition, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) appears to be benefiting sharptails in the northwest, perhaps evidenced by the record number of males per lek observed there this spring.

SNOWSHOE HARES

Snowshoe hares are also counted on grouse survey routes. Counts declined this year by 37 percent, Erb said. Snowshoe hare populations also fluctuate on an approximate 10-year cycle. The counts this year likely represent the beginning of a cyclic decline. Ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse surveys are conducted each spring by DNR Division of Wildlife staff and other cooperators.

This spring, ruffed grouse drumming routes were completed by cooperators including DNR Wildlife, Chippewa and Superior National Forests, Tamarac and Agassiz National Wildlife Refuges, Vermillion College, Land Departments of Cass and Beltrami counties, Blandin Paper Co., 1854 Authority, Fond du Lac, White Earth, Leech Lake, Red Lake and Grand Portage Indian bands, and numerous volunteers.

Staff and volunteers from the DNR Wildlife Division, and Agassiz and Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuges conducted sharptail dancing ground counts.

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