2 months ago
Between the periods of 2001-05 the ruffed grouse population suffered a 63% decline statewide. No one was sure why but in 2015 and through 2016 it has been confirmed that our state bird is suffering losses due to West Nile Virus (WNV) infection. Lisa Williams, Pennsylvania Game Commission ruffed grouse biologist, managed to create a network to look for ruffed grouse eggs in the wild, collect those eggs, find a propagator with a quarintine facility, and get those eggs all the way to that facility in Idaho via a volunteer force. Once hatched, the propagator then volunteered to drive the young chicks to the lab where the challenge study was carried out. Chicks were innoculated with WNV and within the first week 40% of the chicks died. After two weeks, an additional 40% of the chicks showed so much organ damage that they probably would not have survived in the wild.
After the challenge study was completed the findings in the lab were then tested on wild grouse in Pennsylvaina. This type of study is very rare in the wildlife sciences: where lab findings are then tested in wild populations. Lisa rallied hundreds of hunters across the state to send in blood samples when they harvested a grouse.
By incorporating these findings into habiatat management planning, the Game Commission and partners hope to direct habitat mangement efforts to areas where grouse populations have the best chance of responding.
A longer version of this film will be released in later 2017.