The number of ruffed grouse in Wisconsin has declined and some are concerned West Nile virus is to blame. In response to these concerns, the Wisconsin DNR is kicking off a monitoring program this fall.
DNR upland wildlife ecologist Mark Witecha says they’re collaborating with natural resource agencies in Minnesota and Michigan, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, but they also need help from hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.
"In order to gather some baseline information on West Nile virus prevalence in ruffed grouse, we're going to be launching into a three year regional monitoring effort beginning this fall," says Witecha. "As part of that, we're asking for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike to help in this process."
Those interested in participating can request a sample kit from their local wildlife biologist. The kit will include basic materials for the hunter to collect samples from a bird they harvest this fall, in addition to a prepaid envelope to get the samples to the lab.
"If folks do encounter a sick or dead bird, they also don't need a sampling kit necessarily to help," says Witecha. "Anyone can assist in this effort. You can contact your local wildlife biologist with the DNR and note the location of the bird and those can be submitted for sampling as well."
You can find the contact information for your local wildlife biologist here: https://dnr.wi.gov/
West Nile virus is typically transmitted through mosquitos and there is no evidence that West Nile virus can be spread by handling dead birds or by consuming properly cooked game.