POWELL – Leslie Schreiber slowed as the horizontal snow covered a rare paved road north of Rawlins. But the wildlife biologist did not want to stop.
This could have been 1000 days in the life of the biologist of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, but it was anything but an average day. This writer was the first in this field as the new coordinator for the beekeepers program of the state. On this day, the mission was to help the species fight for survival in two states.
The situation in North Dakota is bleak. At the last count, there were less than 10 male salmon chicken in the state. There is speculation that if the species disappears there, they could disappear from the landscape of South Dakota.
North and South Dakota are two out of only eleven Western states with suitable habitat for the decaying Capercaillie. Several states have led to a population collapse over the past decade. Scientists recently suspect that the West Nile virus has already destroyed ravaged populations.
If they disappear in the Dakota, this is probably interpreted as another reason for the protection of sage-hens in the Endangered Species Act. And when the bird is listed, experts say that Wyoming – which has both the largest habitat and the largest salmonid chicken population in the world – has the most to lose.
To help each other, Wyoming and North Dakota have entered into a deal: Wyoming will send 100 male and 100 female saline hens (including 50 females with their broods) for several years, while North Dakota will provide up to 200 wild pheasants; Pheasants will add some genetic diversity to the breeding stock of the Wyoming wild bird farm in Sheridan.
However, Wyoming's biggest asset is not the new pheasants, according to David Dahlgren of Utah State University: the techniques that help wildlife managers understand the best ways to get goat chicken from one place to another.
"As Sage Moorhuhn's habitat continues to decline and populations continue to be fragmented, I believe that translocations will become much more common – whether to increase the number of populations or genetically," said Dahlgren, a wildlife wildlife specialist Country leading expert on Sage Grouse translocations.
Translocation is an important new tool to increase the genetic viability of not only salmon, but many species as well. The habitat fragmentation isolates wildlife on islands and genetically stagnates. Scientists hope that this experiment to implement sage grouse led by Dahlgren and wildlife officials in Wyoming and North Dakota, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the US Geological Survey will lead to lessons that are applicable to other species are because the techniques are refined. Dahlgren also works on Grouse translocation projects in Utah, Nevada and California.
The work sounds easy – catch the birds and bring them to a new location – but the effort was a five-year love affair involving dozens of scientists, physicians, and highly skilled workers willing to work long hours – often in a miserable condition.
At 9 o'clock in the evening. On April 2, Scribe began preparing for work at the Hampton Inn in Rawlins, her temporary home for the duration of the conquests.
The game and fish department decided to catch grouse in the Rawlins habitat, where the populations are healthy. But the weather did not cooperate.
In strong wind that blows rain, sleet and snow into the sagebrush steppe, the preparations were critical. They need to be warm and dry to concentrate on work, and that requires many shifts. Bill Jensen, a large animal biologist from North Dakota, was the first to wait in the lobby of the hotel.
"There is no bad weather, just bad clothes," he said.
One of the last things Schreiber put on was a spotlight. To safely catch Sage Auerhahn, you must work in the dark of the night. It took a miracle to catch her on this snowy night. Dahlgren had already warned the team that if captured birds returned wet and cold, he would postpone their efforts.
"I will not risk a single bird," he said.
To get to the nesting grounds outside of Rawlins was a fight. Deep snow driving slowed off SUVs. Before the teams reached the birds, they were already wet and cold. They traveled in teams of two – one with a spotlight and one with a specially designed network. The headlamp illuminated the males, who were given away by their bright green eyes and their broad, white neck plumage. While the birds were dazzled by the light, the team member grabbed the net from the back up, gently catching the grouse and fixing it in a cardboard box. The material was a bad mix with the wet night. In the first three hours of the effort, the teams managed to catch three black grouses.
The birds were handed over to waiting teams and returned to the base camp. Veterinarian veterinarians deafened the grouse on arrival (to reduce stress during the procedure), examined it carefully, tied it up and tested it; Only two of the first three birds were healthy enough to be admitted as candidates for resettlement by Mary Wood, Wild and Wildlife Veterinarian. These two were equipped with radio transmitters for future studies. Meanwhile, Dahlgren halted the conquest efforts due to the worsening weather.
The teams waited in their trucks for conditions to change and some took a nap. There was a precipitation break at 15:30, and the teams got together again.
At 7:30 pm, the teams had caught and processed nine grouse and went back to Rawlins for a nap. A crew from North Dakota was ready with a truck. They brought the first load of grouse to the northeast and released it the next morning in western North Dakota near the Montana border.
The next day in Rawlins the routine was the same, but the weather improved. The scientists caught eleven more cocks and worked on them. Then another crew took the men to North Dakota for release.
The teams will reunite later this spring – after the nests hatch – to catch 10 females with no active brood and 10 with their chicks. Dahlgren has found it important to keep the brood together with her mothers.
"It really helped us to overcome the huge risks we have experienced in translocations," he said.
But it's all an experiment at that time, Schreiber said, and the determination of success is a long process. Teams of scientists will remain in captivity and release throughout the summer. They will check whether Wyoming's populations are not affected by revenues – and that augmentation works in the new homes of birds in North Dakota.
While the researchers hope it will be a five-year project, Wyoming approves the work year after year.
"We want to better understand the impact on Wyoming birds before we agree on the entire five years," said Schreiber. The project is now in its third year, and preliminary USGS data shows little to no adverse impact on Wyoming's population and small achievements in North Dakota, Dahlgren said.
"Things are looking good right now," he said. "But my experience with the Auerhahn relocation is that you really do not see a good response until the fourth year of efforts. Then things start right. "
With each new attempt, crews from the eleven western states receive advice on how to better shift the black grouse and improve or diversify the population.
"What we learn about the relocation of black grouse is shared with the other states," said Schreiber. "It's an important tool we develop."
State and federal officials share a mission to visit well-known Leks and report witchcraft numbers in Wyoming – and help comes from many sources. Powell Game Warden Chris Queen covers five to six leks and counts the men and women involved in complicated spring matings.
"The data is important, but I have to combine the route with other tasks," Queen said as he bounced his green F-250 on a muddy road. "Our jobs are a third-party law enforcement agency, a third wildlife management and a third party, whatever is required of us."
As he rolled to one of his stations in Elk Basin north of Powell, Queen sprang up with his spotting scope. He set it with a hot foot through sand and sagebrush on a hill, half a kilometer from the truck. Through the mighty target, the overseer was able to watch the Lek without disturbing the grouse dance.
"There are 22 roosters and four chickens," Queen said as she squatted near a lichen-covered promontory, adding, "I hope there will be more later this season – closer to the summit."
The production of Sage Grouse in Wyoming has been in a downward trend in recent years, falling from a 10-year high of 1.8 chicks per hen in 2014 to 0.83 last year. The average needed to maintain the current population is 1.2 chicks per hen, said Schreiber, and a growing population has 1.5 chicks per hen. Sage wood grouse is known to be cyclical, has bad years and good years, depending on factors such as weather and habitat quality.
The population of capercaillies in the west has dropped from an estimated 16 million birds to about 400,000. As part of efforts to reverse declining populations, research teams have even experimented with artificial insemination for two years – a very difficult task.
The hope is that the valorization of the species by the bird species as endangered species is prevented and the important species are saved. A listing could slow down mineral exploration and production, land leasing and agriculture, and cost the revenues of Western countries.
If the Dakota Desert Deer Series were to shrink by 30 miles, this could lead to a loss of population in both Dakotas.
"The state border seems to be an arbitrary line, but every state has money that can be spent," said Kolar. "If two states lose this money, it will have practical consequences for salmon chicken."
Although the Dakotas are the edge of the range, but since surviving sage chickens survive there, use all the states with the species, said Dahlgren.
"If we keep seeing eradication, there is a higher likelihood of listed listing and any economic impact on Western nations," he said. "And Wyoming will lose the most."
With the need for relocations continuing or possibly increasing, scientists are likely to continue to look for wild birds in Wyoming, with nearly 40 percent of the country's larger sages living here.
"Wyoming," said Dahlgren, "is a way chicken kernel."