CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking that the public report dead sage grouse so that the birds can be tested for West Nile Virus.
The department said Monday that there are no signs of a West Nile Virus outbreak among sage grouse across the state, but that they ask the public on an annual basis to report dead sage grouse during West Nile Virus season. Pools of mosquitoes have recently tested positive for West Nile Virus in Cheyenne, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department said last week.
“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,” Game and Fish says. “Evidence of the disease has been reported in past years in northeast Wyoming and in surrounding states, including a sage grouse in North Dakota.”
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Game and Fish Sage Grouse/Sagebrush Biologist Leslie Schreiber said that drier conditions this year make for less favorable conditions for mosquitoes but that monitoring for West Nile Virus remains 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. “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.”
Obvious roadkilled sage grouse should not be reported, Game and Fish says. People should report other dead grouse quickly so that the birds don’t deteriorate, according to Schreiber.
“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,” Game and Fish says. “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.”