The Sage Grouse Crisis has Reached Critical Mass

mtmiller

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Chatted with my counterpart in ND this morning. That cycle better start rebounding in ND, 19 males observed on leks this spring.:(
 

kwyeewyk

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Its complex like god made it be. Of course we should address and understand all the factors affecting the decline. However, why would you not want to make the primary focus on west nile since most people don't know about it please put light to it and it has caused population crashes in various local areas multiple years since 1999. It has to be considered a Major player in the decline in many areas and it just doesn't get the press, why???? You know why. Ah once They accept it then it will get filed under climate change so it meets the agenda. It has also basically wiped the ruffed grouse out in eastern pa. Researchers have found that various areas of New York State Ruffed Grouse have natural genetic immunity to WSN. Maybe we can hope>>>
At some point in the near future a plan to treat stock tanks and standing water will need to be implemented or the sage grouse will be just about gone. We do enjoy the greater numbers of elk/deer/antelope in the non traditional desert areas with man made water or areas that would have limited elk/deer/antelope populations due to lack of water.
Ok we can talk about wind energy and the sage grouse>> share your thoughts
Honestly I don't think WNV has been much of a secret, we assessed it as a threat in WA long ago and there's plenty mention of it in the literature. Wildlife (upland bird) guzzlers were considered as a potential source of WNV and we've been removing them slowly but surely as they become dysfunctional. Think of it like the ABCs of first aid, you go in order of importance. Where WNV is a major issue it should be dealt with aggressively, but to ignore other habitat issues and focus mainly on that will not work.
 

OntarioHunter

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That's because they tend to avoid them, they don't like tall objects overhead, but that doesn't mean they aren't affected by them, = habitat fragmentation.

WNV associated wastewater wells, settling ponds, etc a side effect of habitat fragmentation.

Increased predator activity such as ravens/coyotes is supported by habitat fragmentation and human food subsidies (feed lots, dumps, road kill etc=habitat for predators).

It all comes back to habitat, as hunters we should all know that.
Okay, I will buy that any disturbance of habitat may be detrimental. Have there been any studies of sage grouse and overhead objects? I get it that they like wide open spaces but can they adapt to altered landscape that remains static as long as cover and food source remain? Leaving sagebrush tracts (food source) intact won't help much if the nesting cover between sagebrush bushes is grazed bald.
 

kwyeewyk

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Chatted with my counterpart in ND this morning. That cycle better start rebounding in ND, 19 males observed on leks this spring.:(
That's a very small number, is that for the leks they normally monitor or a whole population? Washington population is about to be uplisted from State Threatened to State Endangered, and we probably haven't really seen the effects of last falls wildfires yet.
 

kwyeewyk

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Okay, I will buy that any disturbance of habitat may be detrimental. Have there been any studies of sage grouse and overhead objects? I get it that they like wide open spaces but can they adapt to altered landscape that remains static as long as cover and food source remain? Leaving sagebrush tracts (food source) intact won't help much if the nesting cover between sagebrush bushes is grazed bald.
There is, don't have time to dig up at the moment, but that's part of why juniper/conifer encroachment is a problem.
 

Mthuntr

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NRCS lek counts locally (which are limited to a handful of sites) are showing a drastic drop in displaying males the last 2 years...while 2 isn't statistically significant it is part of a long-term downward trend. The guys down the hall tell me that one lek traditionally had 80 displaying males has only 12.
 

Handlebar

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That's a very small number, is that for the leks they normally monitor or a whole population? Washington population is about to be uplisted from State Threatened to State Endangered, and we probably haven't really seen the effects of last falls wildfires yet.
I'd be curious about what area of ND because you are getting on the eastern fringe of their habitat
 

mtmiller

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That's a very small number, is that for the leks they normally monitor or a whole population? Washington population is about to be uplisted from State Threatened to State Endangered, and we probably haven't really seen the effects of last falls wildfires yet.
Fairly certain that is for "all" the leks. Not a big deal, the number of leks can be counted on fingers.

I'd be curious about what area of ND because you are getting on the eastern fringe of their habitat
Go to the fringe part of the historic range in ND.....then go smaller.
 

bonedogg

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For those of you who are grazing experts . . .

How does cattle grazing differ from bison grazing? I've read stories of the millions of bison and the millions of sage grouse which used to inhabit the intermountain west simultaneously. I'm not a grazing expert, but I'm not sure I understand how millions of bison weren't more destructive to sage grouse nests and nesting conditions than a few hundred thousand head of cattle.
I was told by a buddy who has Bison, that the Bison will not devastate the grass in their paddock like cows will. He says they naturally create a pattern of grazing that allows for some re-growth within the paddock they are in, much smarter than domestic cattle he says.....domestic cows will crap on and trample 50% of their available feed......
 

IdahoNick

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Seems anecdotal at best. It wasn’t that long ago that MT’s biggest fire of the summer ran a damn train on the heaviest grazed part of this state
So you are telling me that bare sage growing in grazed-to-the-dirt ground with zero understory burns just as fast as sage growing in a foot of thick, ungrazed cheat grass?

I'll disagree with you on that.

The article in the OP even talks about how hot and fast cheat grass burns.
 

IdahoNick

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Any ideas?
Yes. Absolutely.

1. Make it so that ESA species get immediately and automatically taken off the list the second it has been proven that they have reach the target population number.

2. Make it so the only thing that can be challenged in court to overturn an ESA listing or delisting is to challenge whether or not the population has reached the target or not....no other factors. You can't challenge a bear delistings because of beetles killing trees. You can only challenge a bear delistings by saying that the population is not where it is claimed to be and proving it.

...Or take ESA completely away, fine people who kill animals without a license to do so, and abide by CITES export and import standards. Although, admittedly, I am not a fan of how CITES operates, but I trust the system more than The Wild Earth Guardian Tree Huggers of America or whatever these groups call themselves deciding for us in court by simply lucking across a single liberal judge to completely and unilaterally derail ESA delistings with the strike of his gavel.
 

IdahoNick

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Seems anecdotal at best. It wasn’t that long ago that MT’s biggest fire of the summer ran a damn train on the heaviest grazed part of this state
Do you think forest fires burn faster and hotter when there is more wood or less wood? This seems pretty obvious. It is the same concept.
 

1_pointer

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There weren't billions of acres of Great Plains under cultivation back in the free roaming bison days. I am not sure there were more bison on the range back then than there are cattle today but it's obvious the amount of grazing range is a fraction today what it was back then. And no, sage grouse will not nest in grain fields. In fact, I have yet to see one even feeding in a grain field (but they do like alfafa). Also, bison were highly migratory. They weren't fenced in and grazing the same piece of land through most of the year. Consequently there was more cover on the range back then. I can certainly see how the reduction in cover can lead to more egg predation from ravens and crows.
GPS studies of grouse where I used to work offered some surprising insight on to habitat use, especially by hens with chicks. Come about late August, lots of the hens moved out of areas dominated by sagebrush to an area with very little sagebrush. Old dryland wheat farms that were then big fields of grass. They hypothesized that they were moving there for the higher number of bugs. IIRC sage grouse chicks cannot digest/utilize sagebrush until they are a couple months old and feed on insects until that time.

Again, I'm going to leave the bison grazing comments alone...
 

Hunting Wife

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GPS studies of grouse where I used to work offered some surprising insight on to habitat use, especially by hens with chicks. Come about late August, lots of the hens moved out of areas dominated by sagebrush to an area with very little sagebrush. Old dryland wheat farms that were then big fields of grass. They hypothesized that they were moving there for the higher number of bugs. IIRC sage grouse chicks cannot digest/utilize sagebrush until they are a couple months old and feed on insects until that time.

Again, I'm going to leave the bison grazing comments alone...
This is true. I personally have flushed plenty of transmittered broods out of ag fields, old and new, when birds are seeking insects.

Shifting gears....It continues to boggle the mind how every single thread about species decline has people that insist said declines are due to one simple factor, and if only the rest of the world would get on board, the problem would be so simple to fix. In my experience, the simpler you think the solution is, the less understanding you have of the problem.

Habitat quality is a problem. Habitat quantity is a problem. Disease is a problem. Invasives are a problem. Disturbance is a problem. Predation is a problem. These things are neither evenly distributed nor static on the landscape so there is not and will never be a simple, single-factored, blanket solution range-wide to sage grouse declines. It’s going to be complicated and it’s going to be hard. Get used to it.
 

antlerradar

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It is interesting to hear him speak about grouse. He summed it up well to me... He said it is a difficult situation because habitat fragmentation and loss due to fire are the biggest threat. But the birds also need some of the ground cover that gets eaten by cattle when they graze in sagebrush habitat...that understory around the sage....but the grazing is what prevents the hot and fast moving fires. So they need some grazed and some stuff left alone. It is a circular issue.
With the fire frequency that accrued in SE Montana pre fire suppression I wonder how many grouse there were in the pre fire suppression days. SE Montana burned far to frequently for big expanses of sagebrush.
As for fire and grazing, I have seen it first hand, fires burn slower and with less heat in grazed pasture than in pasture that has been grazed. Of course, if you get enough low humidity, heat and wind behind a fire even places that have been grazed hard will burn.
 

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