Survival of Sharp-tailed Grouse on Tribal Landscapes in Washington

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[Photo: Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse: Wikipedia]

Scientific Poster Abstract: WSU Academic Showcase (25 March 2011)

Population Ecology and Conservation of Threatened Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse on Tribal Landscapes in North Central Washington


Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus) are an important cultural and subsistence species for regional Native American Tribes in Washington. However, the once historically large populations of this species have rapidly declined over the last 60 years and they are now a state-threatened species. From 2002 – 2010, we monitored 154 radio-collared individuals from 8 breeding grounds (leks), including 66 grouse translocated from 3 out-state source populations, to explore ecological and environmental factors influencing survival and population trends in different landscapes. We evaluated the hypothesis that habitat quality (e.g., height and density of grassland vegetation) within 1 km of traditional breeding grounds would influence individual survival rates.

Grouse survival rates varied by sex, year trapped, breeding site (lek), season, and measures of habitat quality. Survival rates were lower for nesting females, but higher for males, during the post brood-rearing and non-breeding seasons, and for individuals that lived in higher quality habitats. Overall, sharp-tailed grouse experienced the highest mortality rates from late spring to early summer seasons (breeding through brood rearing). Through translocations of wild grouse from healthy source populations, we are discovering that persistence of local populations on landscapes in the Colville region may improve through a combination of increasing genetic diversity and landscape-level restoration of critical native grassland habitats. Our future efforts to augment populations and increase protection and restoration of key habitats that support grouse during the breeding and brood rearing seasons may be critical to long-term conservation of sharp-tailed grouse in Washington.


R.P. Whitney, Washington State University, WA, and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, WA
R.D. Sayler, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
M. Berger, Kalispel Natural Resources Department, Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources Division, Usk, WA