Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) were historically found in many of the shrub-grass habitats of central and southeastern Washington. Surveys indicate that greater sage-grouse are virtually extinct everywhere except Yakima, Kittitas, Douglas, Grant, and Lincoln counties. Remaining populations are small and localized within isolated areas of relatively intact habitat including shrubsteppe, meadow steppe, and steppe, as well as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands. The remaining populations also lack genetic heterogeneity. The total population in Washington was estimated to be about 1200 birds in 2011.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) initiated a project in 2008 to reintroduce greater sage-grouse to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County, Washington. The goal of the project was to establish a third population in the state in an area with more than 200 km2 of shrubsteppe habitat on public lands. Prior to the first translocation in 2008 there were rare observations of sage-grouse in the release area. It was not clear whether these observations were birds dispersing from the closest population in Douglas County or whether these birds were ‘remnants’ from an endemic population known to occupy the area through the mid-1980s.
- Translocations in 2008-2011 relocated 144 greater sage-grouse to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area from ‘healthy’ source populations in Oregon and Nevada.
- In general, birds released in the autumn fared poorly when compared with birds released in the spring.
- Most translocated females were observed nesting within Washington, some successfully. Broods were also successfully raised.
- We are currently monitoring radio-marked birds for information on productivity, habitat use, movement, and survival.
- Additional translocations are planned.
- Re-introduction of Sage-grouse to Lincoln County, Washington
All photos unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Michael A. Schroeder