20 Jul Sage Grouse in the spotlight – The Joy Trip Project
The Sage Grouse is a candidate for designation as a threatened or endangered species. As the Interior Department considers the bird’s fate, several research projects are underway across the west to study its behavior, movements and nesting patterns.
Wildlife biologist Bryan Bedrosian locates the birds at night. Sage Grouse sleep out in the open so they can see predators coming. But this also blows their cover.
“The way we see them is by a really powerful spotlight we bring out,” Bedrosian said. “And through binoculars we can pick up the shine, the reflection of their eye.”
Using this common technique researchers can spot a group of sleeping grouse for 800 meters. To capture them Bedrosian deploys rock music and what looks like an over-sized butterfly net.
“We go up to them playing loud music so it distracts them, covers up our foot steps, disorients them a little bit to what’s happening,” he said.
With almost 44 percent of Sage Grouse habitat lost to agriculture, urban development, road construction, energy production and other causes, scientists like Bedrosian are providing vital information that may help this chicken-sized desert bird from going extinct. What researchers discover could restrict future land usage, especially in Wyoming where sagebrush, the birds’ primary environment, covers more than half the state.