Wildlife

Public asked to report dead sage grouse during West Nile virus season

WYOMING — This morning, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department requested that the public, especially landowners, report dead sage grouse to the Department so the birds can be tested for West Nile virus.

While there are no signs of an outbreak, Game and Fish asks the public annually for reports to help in the management of the state’s sage grouse populations.

West Nile virus is spread by certain mosquitoes, and research has shown sage grouse have a low resistance to West Nile virus, which can be and is usually fatal to the birds. Evidence of the disease has been reported in past years in northeast Wyoming and in surrounding states, including a sage grouse in North Dakota.

Leslie Schreiber, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse/sagebrush biologist, said that while this year has been drier and less favorable for mosquitoes, monitoring for the disease is still important.

“We haven’t had an outbreak of West Nile in sage grouse since 2003 in northeast Wyoming. But other nearby states, including North Dakota have, and that puts us on alert,” Schreiber said.

Testing dead birds helps Game and Fish monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state.

“We are particularly interested in sage grouse found in remote areas that have no obvious injuries that might have resulted in their death. These may occur near water holes or hayfields on private lands,” Schreiber said.

She added that obvious roadkills should not be reported. Schreiber emphasized the need to report dead birds to local Game and Fish personnel quickly so the birds don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.

For individuals willing to collect carcasses they find, the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote; but, picking up the birds with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves is recommended. The bagged carcass should then be placed into another plastic bag, preferably a trash bag, tied, and taken to a Game and Fish Regional Office. If it can’t be delivered quickly to Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen.

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