© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Does West Nile Virus Affect Midwest Ruffed Grouse Populations?


The effects of West Nile Virus on bluejay and crow populations have been well documented. Those species have been hit hard by the virus, transmitted by mosquitos. It also can affect humans.

Research is beginning in the upper Midwest about the possibility the virus also affecting ruffed grouse populations, a prized bird among hunters.

DNR ecologist Mark Witecha says Minnesota and Michigan wildlife officials are collaborating with Wisconsin on the research. Ruffed Grouse populations cycle upward and downward, but instead of hearing more birds during what should have been an 'up' year, hunters didn't see that many.

Pennsylvania officials have reported a link between West Nile Virus and downward trends in Ruffed Grouse populations there...

"....I've been following a little bit of the research coming out of Pennsylvania about West Nile Virus. As such, I started to take action on a potential collaborative efforts that could be done in the Upper Great Lakes states with our neighbors in Minnesota and Michigan, given that we are the top three grouse hunting states in the country..."

Last year, Michigan had 12 cases of West Nile Virus in grouse populations. Prior to 2017, only one case had been reported in Michigan. One case 15 years ago was reported in Minnesota and it is yet to be detected in Minnesota.

Witecha says there is no evidence to date the virus is affecting grouse populations in Wisconsin, but he says it is worthy of research. He's hoping hunters and outdoor enthusiasts will help out. About 300,000 hunters go for the elusive bird each year across the upper Midwest states. More information is on the DNR website.

Up North Updates
* indicates required
Related Content