Restoration of Greater Sage-grouse in Washington: 2015 Progress Report
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Restoration of Greater Sage-grouse in Washington: 2015 Progress Report

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Non-Game Management and Conservation

Date Published: December 2015

Number of Pages: 31

Author(s): Mike Schroeder, Mike Atamian, Jason Lowe, Kim Thorburn, Carrie Lowe, Mike Finch, Juli Anderson, and Derek Stinson

Declining populations and distribution of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Washington have resulted in serious concerns for their long-term conservation status. The overall population was estimated to be 1004 in 2015, associated with 27 leks. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, initiated a project in 2008 to reintroduce greater sage-grouse to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County, Washington. The project was designed to reestablish a 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. From spring 2008 to spring 2015, 280 greater sage-grouse were translocated from southern Oregon to the Washington release site and their movements, productivity, habitat use, and survival have been monitored. In 2010 three males were observed strutting for two hens post release. In 2011 a couple hundred meters to the north of the 2010 strutting site a lek formed with 7 males observed pre-release. Since 2010 the lek has remained active and steadily grown. In 2015, 15 males were observed on the lek, pre-release. Though the lek appears to be firmly established, the overall population is still below minimum viability. We propose closely monitoring the population for at least two springs without additional translocations to examine how the population will respond.