Sage Grouse to be tested for WNV
West Nile Virus testing
by Wyoming Game & Fish
July 19, 2005
All Wyomingites, especially landowners, are being asked to assist in the management of the stateís trademark sage grouse populations by immediately reporting dead sage grouse so they can be tested for West Nile Virus. Past research has shown the disease to be fatal to sage grouse and the birds have not yet shown any immunity.
Tom Christiansen, the Game and Fish Departmentís sage grouse coordinator, said this yearís wet spring, combined with recent hot temperatures, has fueled mosquito production, which may lead to higher numbers of sage grouse being infected with West Nile Virus.
"Testing the birds will help us monitor the scope and impact of the disease across the state," Christiansen said. "We are particularly interested in sage grouse, as well as other game birds, that are found in remote areas that show no visible signs of death. These may occur near water holes or hay fields on private lands." He added that obvious roadkills should not be reported.
In 2003, the first year the disease was detected in sage grouse, tests conducted by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory confirmed the disease claimed at least 11 sage grouse in the Powder River Basin and one bird each in Carbon, Fremont, Park, Natrona and Sweetwater counties. In 2004, only two sage grouse, both from the Powder River Basin, were found to have succumbed to the disease. Temperature differences between 2003 and 2004 are believed to have contributed to the difference. The summer of 2003 was warmer than normal and 2004 was cooler than normal.
Although the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote, picking up the birds with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves is recommended. The bagged carcass should then be placed into another plastic bag, preferably a trash bag, and tied. If it canít be delivered shortly to the G&F, the bird should be frozen. Christiansen emphasized the need to report dead birds quickly so they donít deteriorate to the point they can no longer be tested.