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For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science
360-902-2515
wildthing@dfw.wa.gov

Fish Science
360-902-2700
fishpgm@dfw.wa.gov

Habitat Science
360-902-2534
habitatprogram@dfw.wa.gov

 
 

Lead Scientist: Michael A. Schroeder and Matthew Vander Haegen

Ecoregions: Columbia Plateau

Ecological Systems: Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Steppe, Inter-Mountains Basins Big Sagebrush Shrubland, Columbia Plateau Steppe and Grassland, Columbia Basin Foothill and Canyon Dry Grassland, Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane - Foothill and Valley Grassland, Columbia Basin Foothill Riparian Woodland and Shrubland, Columbia Basin Foothill and Canyon Dry Grassland, Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane - Foothill and Valley Grassland, Columbia Basin Foothill Riparian Woodland and Shrubland

 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  Sharp-tailed grouse are native to the shrubsteppe areas of Washington.
 
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Click on photo to enlarge
  Sharp-tailed grouse nest in dense vegetation on the ground.
 
Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge
  Distribution of sharp-tailed grouse populations in north-central Washington relative to WDFW lands. Map is from Schroeder et al. (2010).
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  Kourtney Stonehouse (graduate student) is placing a radio-marked sharp-tailed grouse in a box at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area.  The modified box was design by Dave Musil of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to enable a ‘soft’ release of grouse. Kourtney is conducting research on the translocation of sharp-tailed grouse and greater sage-grouse to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area for her Master of Science degree from Washington State University in Pullman.
 
Click on graph to enlarge
Click on graph to enlarge
  Population estimates for sharp-tailed grouse on the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, prior to-, during, and after the translocation during 1998-2000. Figure is from Schroeder et al. (2010).
   

Grouse Ecology

Re-establishment of Viable Populations of Sharp-tailed Grouse

Project Description

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse were historically found in many of the shrub-grass habitats of central and southeastern Washington. Extensive surveys by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) indicate that sharp-tailed grouse are virtually extinct everywhere except Okanogan, Douglas, and Lincoln counties. Remaining populations are small and localized within isolated areas of relatively intact habitat including shrubsteppe, meadow steppe, steppe, and riparian shrub, as well as Conservation Reserve Program fields (CRP). The remaining populations also lack genetic heterogeneity, which is an indication of long-term isolation. The total population in Washington was estimated to be about 900 birds in 2011.

The WDFW has a goal to recover threatened populations of sharp-tailed grouse in Washington. The state has listed the species as threatened, acquired sharp-tailed grouse habitat, developed management strategies to improve habitat, initiated research on life history requirements, conducted detailed analyses of population genetics throughout the sharp-tailed grouse range, and begun experimental translocations to increase and expand populations. Habitat improvements include the reduction of grazing pressure, transition of cropland (mostly wheat) to grass-dominated habitats (such as in the federally-funded CRP), restoration of native habitat, and planting of trees and shrubs (key components of winter habitat).

Key Findings

  • Translocations in 1998, 1999, and 2000 were successful in augmenting one population of sharp-tailed grouse in Washington at the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, northwest of Omak. Birds for this translocation were obtained from southeastern Idaho (51 birds) and the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington (12 birds). Prior to the translocation, surveys indicated that the Scotch Creek population had declined to 1 lek with 2 males. This population has subsequently increased.
  • In the springs of 2005-2008, 61 sharp-tailed grouse were translocated from populations in Utah, Idaho, and British Columbia to the Dyer Hill area, south of Bridgeport (West Foster Creek Wildlife Area). The Dyer Hill population of sharp-tailed grouse has increased.
  • In the springs of 2005-2011, 77 sharp-tailed grouse were translocated from populations in Utah, Idaho, and British Columbia to the Nespelem area, north of Grand Coulee on Colville Confederated Tribal (CCT) Land. The CCT currently supports the largest population of sharp-tailed grouse in Washington.
  • In the springs of 2005-2011, 157 sharp-tailed grouse were translocated from populations in Utah, Idaho, and British Columbia to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, south of Creston.

What’s New

  • Radio-marked birds are currently monitored for information on productivity, habitat use, movement, and survival.
  • Additional translocations are planned.

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Publications

All photos unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Michael A. Schroeder