7-31-2017 – Cheyenne – All Wyomingites, especially landowners, are again being asked to assist in the management of the state’s sage grouse populations this summer by immediately reporting dead sage grouse to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department so they can be tested for West Nile virus.
Past research has shown sage grouse have low resistance to the disease, which is usually fatal to the birds. Evidence of West Nile virus has been reported in northeast Wyoming and in surrounding states, including a sage grouse in North Dakota.
Tom Christiansen, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse program coordinator, said that while there is no sign yet of an outbreak of the virus, this year’s precipitation and warm weather has created conditions favorable for mosquitoes, which can carry the virus.
“Warm nighttime temperatures are thought to enhance the ability of the West Nile virus to multiply in the gut of the mosquito. If conditions are warm between now and the end of August, we could see the virus show up this year,” Christiansen 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 hay fields on private lands,” Christiansen said.
He added that obvious roadkill’s should not be reported. Christiansen emphasized the need to report dead birds to local Game and Fish personnel quickly so they don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.
For individuals willing to collect found carcasses, 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 dropped at a Game and Fish Regional Office. If it can’t be delivered shortly to Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen.