Published: December 2019
Author(s): Mike Schroeder, Mike Atamian, Jason Lowe, Kim Thorburn, Mike Finch, Juli Anderson, Devon Comstock, Colin Leingang, Kevin White, Eric Braaten, 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 676 in 2019, associated with 21 leks. The birds were distributed between 3 populations including 585 birds with 17 leks in Moses Coulee, 78 birds with 3 leks in the Yakima Training Center (YTC), and 13 birds with 1 lek in Crab Creek. A fourth population, the Yakama Nation, appeared to disappear between 2018 and 2019. The overall population increased 32% between 2017 and 2018 and decreased 5% between 2018 and 2019. Governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations are attempting to restore populations of sage-grouse with the aid of land acquisition, habitat improvement, conservation programs, and translocations. Between 2004 and 2016 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), YTC, Yakama Nation, and others collaborated to translocate sage-grouse from other states (Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming) to 3 of the 4 populations in Washington. Six males and 93 females were translocated to YTC to genetically augment an endemic population, 145 males and 135 females were translocated to the Crab Creek area of Lincoln County to re-establish an extirpated population, and 85 males and 43 females were translocated to the Yakama Nation to re-establish an extirpated population. The translocation effort that appears to have had the greatest success so far in establishing an active lek and a documented breeding/nesting population is Crab Creek, although its long-term persistence may be reliant on periodic augmentation efforts.