Published: December 2016
Author(s): Mike Schroeder, Mike Atamian, Jason Lowe, Richard Whitney, Kim Thorburn, Mike Finch, Juli Anderson, Derek Stinson, and Jon Gallie
Declining populations and distribution of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus) in Washington have resulted in serious concerns for their long-term conservation status. The overall population was estimated to be 632 on 38 leks in 2016, representing a continuation of long-term declines. Translocations of sharp-tailed grouse from ‘healthy' populations outside the state were conducted to improve the genetic and demographic health of populations within Washington. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation with the Colville Confederated Tribes, translocated 455 Columbian sharp-tailed grouse from central British Columbia, southeastern Idaho, north-central Utah, and the Nespelem area of Washington to different populations in Washington State in spring 1998-2013. The release sites in Washington included Scotch Creek (NW of Omak in Okanogan County), Dyer Hill (S of Brewster in Douglas County), Swanson Lakes (S of Creston in Lincoln County), Greenaway Springs (SE of Okanogan), and Nespelem (E of Nespelem in Okanogan County). Three of the release sites included state-owned public land and the other sites are Colville Tribal land; all are being managed for the benefit of wildlife, and in particular sharp-tailed grouse. In all release sites, sharp-tailed grouse declined prior to translocation, despite the acquisition and protection of habitat and ongoing habitat restoration efforts. Translocations appeared to reverse the declines, at least in the short term. Analysis of movement, survival, and productivity of the translocated birds is ongoing.