Hunters are being asked to help the DNR determine the extent of West Nile Virus' impact on ruffed grouse populations.
Wildlife health officials in three states are conducting a multi-year study monitoring for West Nile virus in ruffed grouse by submitting samples from their harvested ruffed grouse. The Wisconsin DNR is collaborating with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress to conduct the study.
DNR biologist Mark Witecha says the hope is over the three year study they will be able to get some baseline data on exposure rates the birds have to the virus.
The DNR has assembled 500 self-sampling kits for ruffed grouse hunters to use in 2019....
"...The kits are distributed through local DNR staff. For the month of August, folks may contact their local DNR wildlife biologist. Their contact information can be found in the directory on the DNR web page. In early September, prior to the season starting, the DNR will ship kits to the DNR offices for distribution..."
Hunters will be asked to collect a small amount of blood, a few feathers and the heart from their harvested grouse. Some species are unaffected by West Nile Virus, but others, like bluejays and crows have found reductions in numbers because of the virus.
"Hunters or outdoor enthusiasts, if they encounter a sick or dead ruffed grouse that they please contact their local DNR biologist. The department tracks wildlife health and disease monitoring throughout the year and maintain a database to accumulate those observations..."
This effort will focus on the core ruffed grouse range in the central and northern forests.