Recovery of Sharp-Tailed Grouse in Washington: 2019 Progress Report


Published: November 2019

Pages: 28

Author(s): Mike Schroeder, Mike Atamian, Jeff Heinlen, Jason Lowe, Sam Rushing, Kim Thorburn, Mike Finch, Juli Anderson, Eric Braaten, and Derek Stinson


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 and their uplisting to State Endangered in 2018. The overall population was estimated to be 864 associated with 40 active leks in 8 isolated populations in 2019. This was an increase in the population of 6.9% since 2018. The overall population declined 34% between 2015 and 2016, declined 2% between 2016 and 2017, and increased 26% between 2017 and 2018. Habitat loss due to wildfire appeared to play a large role in the declines and habitat recovery from wildfire may explain the recent increases. 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 and the Bureau of Land Management, translocated 526 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 1998–2019. 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), Nespelem (E of Nespelem in Okanogan County), and Tunk Valley (NE of Omak in Okanogan County). Three of the release sites included state and federally-owned public land, one was private land, and the other sites are Colville Tribal land; all but the one on private land 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 on and near the release sites. Translocations appeared to reverse the declines, at least in the short term.