Date: August 26, 2019
Source: Washington State University
Moving can be tough, but eventually most of us acclimate to new surroundings.
That's true for humans, and research from Washington State University shows it's the same for sage-grouse too.
A team of scientists successfully moved sage-grouse, a threatened bird species in Washington state, from one area of their range to another to increase their numbers and diversify their gene pool. A WSU study on the project in The Journal of Wildlife Management shows relocating the birds is a viable and productive step towards helping their population recover in the state.
"In the first year after moving sage-grouse in, they tended to move around a lot and didn't reproduce as effectively as the native population," said Kyle Ebenhoch, a researcher now working at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). "It took them about a year to settle in and get used to their new surroundings."
Ebenhoch, a WSU graduate student during this project, wrote the paper with WSU School of the Environment professors Daniel Thornton, Lisa Shipley, and Jeffrey Manning. Kevin White, a contract wildlife biologist with the Yakima Training Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was also a member of the research team. The training center hosts a population of sage-grouse where the relocation work was done.
An adjustment period
Ebenhoch wanted to investigate how newly introduced sage-grouse would survive and reproduce in order to determine if relocating birds to the area could be a workable way of keeping the species from further decline in Washington.
It turns out, the birds can adjust, though the training center population continued to decline.
"The birds did adjust to their new surroundings, but it didn't stabilize the population," Ebenhoch said. "This can be one tool in our toolbox for helping, but we'll need more research to find other tools as well."