CASPER, Wyo —The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) is asking everyone, especially landowners, to report dead sage grouse to the WGFD so the birds can be tested for West Nile virus. While no sign of an outbreak yet this year, reports help in the management of the state’s sage grouse populations, according to a Game and Fish release.
Testing dead birds helps Game and Fish monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state. Research has shown sage grouse have a low resistance to the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, and is often fatal to the birds. Evidence of the disease has been reported in past years in northeast Wyoming and in surrounding states, including in sage grouse habitat in North Dakota.
Leslie Schreiber, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse/sagebrush biologist, said this year’s precipitation and warm weather has created favorable conditions for mosquitoes.
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“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,” 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,” Schreiber said.
She added that obvious roadkills should not be reported. Schreiber emphasized the need to report dead birds to local Game and Fish personnel quickly so the birds don’t deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.
For individuals willing to collect carcasses they find, the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote. However, 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 taken to a Game and Fish Regional Office. If it can’t be delivered quickly to Game and Fish, the bird should be frozen.