According to the Wyoming Fish and Game Department, sage grouse lek attendance remains steady. Due to habitats having good moisture this year and natural population cycles of sage grouse, attendance was up 6 percent for the 2022 season.
Every year Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, consultants, and volunteers count the number of male sage grouse per active lek. This has been monitored for six decades. There is a natural rise and fall that occurs with population cycles every six to eight years. During spring 2022, there was an average of 17.9 birds per lek with over 16,740 peak male sage grouse counted on 87 percent of known, occupied leks. The birds are counted aerially or on the ground through distanced observation points during spring mating.
Sage grouse need sagebrush habitats to survive. Habitat is the key to sustainability for the species, so last season’s drought took a negative toll. The drought conditions affect chick survival, so this season’s boost in moisture is believed to have been a factor for the increase in attendance.
According to Nyssa Whitford, Game and Fish sage grouse/sagebrush biologist, “Wyoming continues to invest significantly in efforts to conserve sage grouse habitat. Habitat projects that build resiliency in the ecosystem are a priority.”
Game and Fish monitors the percentage of known active and inactive leks throughout Wyoming. Active leks remain steady at 75.6 percent. Inactive leks mean there are no birds or signs of strutting while observed under ideal conditions during mating season.
Part of management includes a conservative hunting season. It goes through an extensive review process annually. Hunters are asked to drop wings from their harvested grouse for analysis. Such information, as well as surveys, provided by hunters are important parts of monitoring populations.
“Hunter-submitted wings are one tool Game and Fish uses for sage grouse population monitoring. This fall, we are again asking for hunters to give us wings from harvested sage grouse,” Whitford stated.
With this year’s slight increase, Fish and Game anticipates seeing more in the years to come.