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More Study Needed On Impact Of West Nile Virus On Ruffed Grouse

Wisconsin DNR

Results from the blood samples collected from harvested ruffed grouse last year indicate that 20 percent of the Wisconsin birds had antibodies consistent with West Nile Virus exposure. Of these samples, 9 percent showed confirmed virus and 11 percent showed likely exposure. None of the 188 samples had evidence of the virus present in their hearts where it's likely fatal. Ruffed grouse were found to among a variety of bird species affected by the bite of mosquitoes carrying the virus. Black crows and bluejays are among other bird species affected. The upper Midwest is among the prime grouse hunting areas in the nation. Michigan DNR upland game bird specialist Al Stewart says Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota all worked on the study. In Michigan there was 7 percent exposure rate. Stewart says the virus has been around for 20 years, but only showed up in the grouse population recently... "We never saw it in ruffed grouse until 2017. What was happening? Why the did all that occur? We don't know that answer..." Stewart says in 2017 hunters were finding sick birds. He says that has diminished. He says it's good reminder that the birds need a good place to live.. "The key then is to make sure grouse have the very best habitat, that their health conditions are not compromised. At a peak of what grouse can be. Early aspen, early successional forests.." For fall 2020, the Wisconsin DNR is relying on hunters who currently possess unused sampling kits from previous years to fill them and send them in for processing. The DNR will not be distributing any new kits this fall due to COVID-19 operational changes.

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