Centrocercus urophasianus - (Bonaparte, 1827)
Greater Sage-Grouse
Other English Common Names: greater sage-grouse
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Centrocercus urophasianus (Bonaparte, 1827) (TSN 175855)
French Common Names: tÚtras des armoises
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105314
Element Code: ABNLC12010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Galliformes Phasianidae Centrocercus
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Centrocercus urophasianus
Taxonomic Comments: This species formerly included C. minimus, which is now recognized as a distinct species, the Gunnison sage-grouse (AOU 2000). Subspecies phaios is of questionable taxonomic validity; validity may be impossible to determine because of introductions of nominate subspecies into range of phaios (Johnsgard 1983, Banks 1995). Accordingly, USFWS (2003, 2010) did not recognize any valid subspecies of C. urophasianus.

Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment: USFWS (2003) found that the discrete population segment of greater sage-grouse that remains in Washington is significant to the remainder of the taxon and thus represents a distinct population segment. The significance of this population segment is primarily due to its persistence in the unique ecological setting of the Columbia Basin. In addition, the available genetic and morphological information on greater sage-grouse, while inconclusive, indicates that this population segment may be differentiating from the remainder of the taxon, and its extirpation could preclude further scientific inquiry into these characteristics. Finally, information concerning the historic and current distribution of greater sage-grouse indicates that the loss of the Columbia Basin population segment would represent a significant gap in the historical range of the taxon.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 24Sep2010
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Widely distributed and still relatively common in the core of the range in western and central North America; range has contracted significantly and now encompasses about 56% of the potential pre-settlement distribution; abundance has declined, primarily as a result of loss, fragmentation, and degradation of sagebrush habitat; rate of decline decreased significantly after 1985, but the number of males per lek and the number of active leks continue to decline, and the species is significantly threatened by loss, fragmentation, and degradation of sagebrush habitat now and for the foreseeable future.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3N4 (24Sep2010)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N1 (02Dec2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States California (S2S3), Colorado (S4), Idaho (S3), Kansas (SX), Montana (S2), Nebraska (S1), Nevada (S3), New Mexico (SX), North Dakota (SU), Oklahoma (SX), Oregon (S3), South Dakota (S2), Utah (S3), Washington (S1), Wyoming (S3S4)
Canada Alberta (S1), British Columbia (SX), Saskatchewan (S1)

Other Statuses

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R6 - Rocky Mountain
Implied Status under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):XT,E
Comments on COSEWIC: Theáphaios subspecies is Extirpated and theáurophasianus subspecies is Endangered.
IUCN Red List Category: NT - Near threatened

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: This species is resident locally from central Washington, southern Idaho, Montana, southeastern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan, southwestern North Dakota, and western South Dakota south to east-central California, south-central Nevada, southern Utah, and northwestern Colorado; extirpated from historical range in southern British Columbia, western Nebraska, and possibly northern Arizona (USFWS 2010). Current distribution is estimated at 668,412 sq km or 56 percent of the potential pre-settlement distribution (see USFWS 2010).

Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment:

The historical distribution of greater sage grouse populations within the Columbia Basin (i.e., the northwestern portion of the species' range) extended from northern Oregon throughout eastern Washington and into extreme south-central British Columbia (USFWS 2003). Currently, all (or very nearly all) of the greater sage-grouse in Oregon occur outside of the Columbia Basin (WDFW 2000) and are not part of this DPS. Historically, greater sage-grouse in Washington ranged from Oroville in the north, west along the Cascade foothills, east to the Spokane River, and south to the Oregon border (Yocom 1956). Currently, greater sage grouse occupy two relatively small areas within the Columbia Basin in central Washington (USFWS 2003).

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Current distribution of the greater sage-grouse is estimated at 668,412 square kilomters (Schroeder et al. 2004, USFWS 2010).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: The species as a whole is represented by many distinct occurrences (subpopulations).

Columbia Basin Disitnct Population Segment: The two subpopulations of greater sage-grouse that remain in central Washington are separated by approximately 55 km. While this distance is well within the species' maximum estimated dispersal distance, a number of recent telemetry studies have never documented their intermixing (M. Schroeder, pers. comm., 1999; M. Pounds, YTC, pers. comm., 1999; cited by USFWS 2003). However, until recently, the two subpopulations were considered relatively continuous and may now represent isolated components of a single metapopulation (WDFW 1995, Schroeder et al. 2000). In addition, sporadic sightings outside current concentrations indicate there may be some minimal interaction and, possibly, genetic interchange between them (WDFW 1995). [from USFWS 2003]

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Based on data from 2002-2008, total range-wide population size was estimated at approximately 536,000 (USFWS 2010). This estimate, though not precise and based on certain assumptions that may be incorrect, likely is of the correct order of magnitude.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some to many (13-125)

Overall Threat Impact: High - medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Declines in the 1920s and 1930s have been attributed to hunting, and declines in the 1960s and 1970s resulted primarily from loss, fragmentation, and degradation of sagebrush habitat (see USFWS 2010). Many of the recorded declines over the past several decades are the result of loss of leks, indicating either a direct loss of habitat or habitat function (USFWS 2010).

Connectivity among sage-grouse populations has declined since 1965 (USFWS 2010). The decline in connectivity was due to the loss of leks and reduced population size (Knick and Hanser, in press, cited by USFWS 2010). Small decreases in lek connectivity resulted in large increases in probability of lek abandonment. Historical leks with low connectivity were lost during this period, suggesting that current isolation of leks by distance (including habitat fragmentation) likely will result in future loss of isolated leks (Knick and Hanser).

Large losses of sagebrush shrubsteppe habitats due to agricultural conversion have occurred range wide but have been especially significant in the Columbia Basin of Washington, the Snake River Plain of Idaho, and the Great Plains. Conversion of sagebrush habitats to cropland continues to occur, but the current rate of conversion is unknown. Most areas suitable for agricultural production were converted many years ago. However, the current rate of conversion is likely to increase in the future if incentives for crop production for use as biofuels continue to be offered. Urban and exurban development also have direct and indirect negative effects on sage-grouse, including direct and indirect habitat losses, disturbance, and introduction of new predators and invasive plant species. Given current trends in the Rocky Mountain west, urban and exurban development is expected to continue. Infrastructure such as powerlines, roads, communication towers, and fences continue to fragment sage-grouse habitat. These sources of fragmentation likely will increase into the future. Fragmentation of sagebrush habitats through a variety of mechanisms including those listed above has been cited as a primary cause of the decline of sage-grouse populations. The negative effects of habitat fragmentation on sage-grouse are diverse and include reductions in the following: lek persistence, lek attendance, winter habitat, recruitment, yearling annual survival, and female nest site choice. Habitat fragmentation is believed to be a primary cause of sage-grouse decline and in some areas has already led to population extirpation. Fragmentation is expected to continue into the foreseeable future and will continue to threaten the persistence of greater sage-grouse populations. [Abstracted from USFWS 2010].

Loss of sagebrush habitat to wildfire has been increasing in western areas of the greater sage-grouse range for the past three decades. The change in fire frequency has been strongly influenced by the presence of exotic annual grasses and significantly deviates from extrapolated historical fire regimes. Restoration of these communities is challenging, requires many years, and may, in fact, never be achieved in the presence of invasive grass species. Greater sage-grouse are slow to recolonize burned areas even if structural features of the shrub community have recovered . Burned areas also inhibit sage-grouse dispersal. Fire frequency is likely to increase in the foreseeable future due to increases in cover of Bromus tectorum and the projected effects of climate change. [Abstracted from USFWS 2010].

Invasive plants negatively impact sage-grouse primarily by reducing or eliminating native vegetation that sage-grouse require for food and cover, resulting in habitat loss and fragmentation. A variety of non-native annuals and perennials (e.g., Bromus tectorum, Euphorbia esula) and native conifers (e.g., pinyon pine, juniper species) are invasive to sagebrush ecosystems. Nonnative invasives, including annual grasses and other noxious weeds, continue to expand their range, facilitated by ground disturbances such as wildfire, grazing, and infrastructure. Pinyon and juniper and some other native conifers are expanding and infilling their current range mainly due to decreased fire return intervals, livestock grazing, and increases in global carbon dioxide concentrations associated with climate change, among other factors. A large portion of the Great Basin is at risk of B. tectorum invasion or pinyon-juniper encroachment within the next 30 years. Approximately 80 percent of land in the Great Basin Ecoregion is susceptible to displacement by B. tectorum within 30 years, and approximately 35 percent of sagebrush in the Great Basin is at high risk of displacement by pinyon-juniper in 30 years. Bromus tectorum is widespread at lower elevations and pinyon-juniper woodlands tend to expand into higher elevation sagebrush habitats, creating an elevational squeeze from both low and high elevations. [Abstracted from USFWS 2010].

Livestock management and domestic grazing can seriously degrade sage-grouse habitat. Grazing can adversely impact nesting and brood-rearing habitat by decreasing vegetation concealment from predators. Grazing also has been shown to compact soils, decrease herbaceous abundance, increase erosion, and increase the probability of invasion of exotic plant species. Once plant communities have an invasive annual grass understory dominance, successful restoration is very difficult if not impossible. Massive systems of fencing constructed to manage domestic livestock cause direct mortality to sage-grouse in addition to degrading and fragmenting habitats. Livestock management also can involve water developments that can degrade important brood-rearing habitat and or facilitate the spread of West Nile virus. Additionally, some research suggests there may be direct competition between sage-grouse and livestock for plant resources. However, although there are obvious negative impacts, some research suggests that under very specific conditions grazing can benefit sage-grouse. Similar to domestic grazing, wild horses and burros have the potential to negatively affect sage-grouse habitats by decreasing grass cover, fragmenting shrub canopies, altering soil characteristics, decreasing plant diversity, and increasing the abundance of invasive Bromus tectorum. [Abstracted from USFWS 2010].

Energy development is a significant risk to the greater sage-grouse in the eastern portion of its range (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and northeastern Utah), with the primary concern being the direct elimination of habitat, leks, and whole populations and fragmentation of some of the last remaining large expanses of habitat. Continued exploration and development of traditional and nonconventional fossil fuel sources in the eastern portion of the greater sage-grouse range is predicted to continue to increase over the next 20 years. Greater sage-grouse populations are predicted to decline 7-19 percent over the next 20 years due to the effects of oil and gas development in the eastern part of the range. Development of commercially viable renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass) is increasing across the range. In Wyoming, where wind development is advancing and predicted to increase, the effects of both conventional and nonconventional and renewable sources may claim a substantial toll on sage-grouse habitats and geographic areas that were in the past considered refugia for the species. Renewable energy resources are likely to be developed in areas previously untouched by traditional energy development. Wind energy resources are being investigated in south-central and southeastern Oregon where large areas of relatively unfragmented sage-dominated landscapes are important for maintaining long-term connectivity within the sage-grouse populations. [Abstracted from USFWS 2010].

Under current climate-change projections, further invasion by Bromus tectorum into sage-grouse habitat is likely to occur, as is invasion by woody species, and fire frequency (as well as extent and severity) likely will continue to increase. Climate warming is also likely to increase the severity of West Nile virus (WNv) outbreaks and to expand the area susceptible to outbreaks into areas that are now too cold for the WNv vector. Climate change is thus likely to exacerbate the existing primary threats to greater sagegrouse of frequent wildfire and invasive nonnative plants, particularly B. tectorum as well as the threat posed by disease. [Abstracted from USFWS 2010].

See USFWS 2010, 2013) for further discussion of these and additonal less serious threats.

Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment:

USFWS (2001) noted declines in the distribution and abundance of western sage grouse throughout the Columbia Basin, primarily attributed to the loss and degradation of native shrub steppe habitats. These impacts are likely due to a combination of factors including crop production, fire, military training, overgrazing by livestock, rural and suburban development, and dam construction. The Columbia Basin DPS of western sage grouse is also at increased risk from inbreeding depression and random environmental influences due to its small size and level of fragmentation. The fragmented, isolated nature of the Columbia Basin DPS is a concern. A preliminary viability analysis conducted by the WSGWG (1998) indicates that neither subpopulation is likely viable over the long term (approximately 100 years).

USFWS (2001) acknowledged that various state and Federal agencies in Washington and Oregon, and throughout the species' historical distribution, are actively managing the birds to try to improve their overall population status and/or attempting to restore them to currently unoccupied habitats.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Trend over the past three generations (which is probably about 12-15 years) is not precisely known, but the overall population likely is slowly declining (an annual decline of 1.4% would result a decline of 13.2% over 10 years).

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Long-term Trend Comments: Early accounts suggest that this species was once widespread and abundant in many areas of the West, and there are reports of sage-grouse being shot by the wagon-load (Braun 1999b). However, neither presettlement nor current numbers of sage-grouse are accurately known, so the actual rate and magnitude of decline since presettlement times are uncertain (USFWS 2010). Nevertheless, analyses of lek count data for 1965-2007 indicate that the species has experienced a long-term, rangewide population decline (USFWS 2010). The average annual rate of decline has lessened since 1985 (from 3.1 to 1.4 percent), but population declines continue, and populations are now at much lower levels than in the early 1980s (USFWS 2010). Currently, greater sage-grouse occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range (USFWS 2010).

There is some evidence that populations may be cyclic, with peaks approximately every ten years (Rich 1985), although there is some debate whether populations fluctuate in regular cycles (Schroeder et al. 1999). However, these fluctuations have all but ceased for several years, suggesting that some populations may be at a point where they are unable and unlikely to increase due to habitat limitations, perhaps in combination with other factors (USFWS 2010).

Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment:

Currently, the greater sage-grouse occupies two relatively small areas within the Columbia Basin in central Washington, which represent approximately 10 percent of the species' historical state distribution (USFWS 2003). This DPS has been virtually eliminated from the remainder of the range in Oregon and British Columbia. Overall, greater sage grouse currently occupy approximately 5 percent of their historical distribution within this ecosystem (USFWS 2003).

Rough estimates, based on the historical distribution of greater sage grouse within the Columbia Basin (WDFW 2000) and contemporary density projections (see USFWS 2003) indicate that there may have been between roughly 100 thousand and one million birds within this ecosystem historically. Given current estimates, the abundance of greater sage-grouse within the Columbia Basin has declined by over 97 percent from historical levels (USFWS 2003)..

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) This species is resident locally from central Washington, southern Idaho, Montana, southeastern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan, southwestern North Dakota, and western South Dakota south to east-central California, south-central Nevada, southern Utah, and northwestern Colorado; extirpated from historical range in southern British Columbia, western Nebraska, and possibly northern Arizona (USFWS 2010). Current distribution is estimated at 668,412 sq km or 56 percent of the potential pre-settlement distribution (see USFWS 2010).

Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment:

The historical distribution of greater sage grouse populations within the Columbia Basin (i.e., the northwestern portion of the species' range) extended from northern Oregon throughout eastern Washington and into extreme south-central British Columbia (USFWS 2003). Currently, all (or very nearly all) of the greater sage-grouse in Oregon occur outside of the Columbia Basin (WDFW 2000) and are not part of this DPS. Historically, greater sage-grouse in Washington ranged from Oroville in the north, west along the Cascade foothills, east to the Spokane River, and south to the Oregon border (Yocom 1956). Currently, greater sage grouse occupy two relatively small areas within the Columbia Basin in central Washington (USFWS 2003).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CA, CO, ID, KSextirpated, MT, ND, NE, NMextirpated, NV, OKextirpated, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Canada AB, BCextirpated, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: WILDSPACETM 2002

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Modoc (06049), Mono (06051)
CO Eagle (08037), Garfield (08045), Grand (08049), Jackson (08057), Moffat (08081), Rio Blanco (08103), Routt (08107), Summit (08117)
ID Adams (16003), Bannock (16005), Bear Lake (16007), Bingham (16011), Blaine (16013), Boise (16015), Bonneville (16019), Butte (16023), Camas (16025), Caribou (16029), Cassia (16031), Clark (16033), Custer (16037), Elmore (16039), Fremont (16043), Gooding (16047), Jefferson (16051), Jerome (16053), Lemhi (16059), Lincoln (16063), Madison (16065), Minidoka (16067), Oneida (16071), Owyhee (16073), Payette (16075), Power (16077), Twin Falls (16083), Valley (16085), Washington (16087)
MT Beaverhead (30001), Big Horn (30003), Blaine (30005), Broadwater (30007), Carbon (30009), Carter (30011), Chouteau (30015), Custer (30017), Dawson (30021), Deer Lodge (30023), Fallon (30025), Fergus (30027), Gallatin (30031), Garfield (30033), Golden Valley (30037), Hill (30041), Madison (30057), McCone (30055), Meagher (30059), Musselshell (30065), Park (30067), Petroleum (30069), Phillips (30071), Powder River (30075), Prairie (30079), Roosevelt (30085), Rosebud (30087), Silver Bow (30093), Stillwater (30095), Sweet Grass (30097), Treasure (30103), Valley (30105), Wheatland (30107), Wibaux (30109), Yellowstone (30111)
NE Sioux (31165)
OR Baker (41001), Crook (41013), Deschutes (41017), Grant (41023), Harney (41025), Klamath (41035)*, Lake (41037), Malheur (41045), Union (41061)
UT Beaver (49001), Box Elder (49003), Cache (49005), Carbon (49007), Daggett (49009), Duchesne (49013), Emery (49015), Garfield (49017), Grand (49019), Iron (49021), Juab (49023), Kane (49025), Millard (49027), Morgan (49029), Piute (49031), Rich (49033), Salt Lake (49035)*, San Juan (49037), Sanpete (49039), Sevier (49041), Summit (49043), Tooele (49045), Uintah (49047), Utah (49049), Wasatch (49051), Washington (49053)*, Wayne (49055), Weber (49057)
WA Adams (53001), Benton (53005), Chelan (53007), Douglas (53017), Ferry (53019), Franklin (53021), Grant (53025), Kittitas (53037), Lincoln (53043), Okanogan (53047), Walla Walla (53071), Yakima (53077)
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Campbell (56005), Carbon (56007), Converse (56009), Crook (56011), Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Hot Springs (56017), Johnson (56019), Laramie (56021), Lincoln (56023), Natrona (56025), Niobrara (56027), Park (56029), Platte (56031), Sheridan (56033), Sublette (56035), Sweetwater (56037), Teton (56039), Uinta (56041), Washakie (56043), Weston (56045)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
10 Red Rock (10020001)+, Beaverhead (10020002)+, Ruby (10020003)+, Big Hole (10020004)+, Jefferson (10020005)+, Madison (10020007)+, Upper Missouri (10030101)+, Upper Missouri-Dearborn (10030102)+, Smith (10030103)+, Marias (10030203)+, Teton (10030205)+, Bullwhacker-Dog (10040101)+, Arrow (10040102)+, Judith (10040103)+, Fort Peck Reservoir (10040104)+, Big Dry (10040105)+, Little Dry (10040106)+, Upper Musselshell (10040201)+, Middle Musselshell (10040202)+, Flatwillow (10040203)+, Box Elder (10040204)+, Lower Musselshell (10040205)+, Middle Milk (10050004)+, Big Sandy (10050005)+, Lodge (10050007)+, Battle (10050008)+, Peoples (10050009)+, Cottonwood (10050010)+, Whitewater (10050011)+, Lower Milk (10050012)+, Frenchman (10050013)+, Beaver (10050014)+, Rock (10050015)+, Porcupine (10050016)+, Prarie Elk-Wolf (10060001)+, Redwater (10060002)+, Yellowstone Headwaters (10070001)+, Upper Yellowstone (10070002)+, Shields (10070003)+, Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin (10070004)+, Stillwater (10070005)+, Clarks Fork Yellowstone (10070006)+, Upper Yellowstone-Pompeys Pillar (10070007)+, Pryor (10070008)+, Upper Wind (10080001)+, Little Wind (10080002)+, Popo Agie (10080003)+, Muskrat (10080004)+, Lower Wind (10080005)+, Badwater (10080006)+, Upper Bighorn (10080007)+, Nowood (10080008)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Big Horn Lake (10080010)+, Dry (10080011)+, North Fork Shoshone (10080012)+, South Fork Shoshone (10080013)+, Shoshone (10080014)+, Lower Bighorn (10080015)+, Little Bighorn (10080016)+, Upper Tongue (10090101)+, Lower Tongue (10090102)+, Middle Fork Powder (10090201)+, Upper Powder (10090202)+, South Fork Powder (10090203)+, Salt (10090204)+, Crazy Woman (10090205)+, Clear (10090206)+, Middle Powder (10090207)+, Little Powder (10090208)+, Lower Powder (10090209)+, Mizpah (10090210)+, Lower Yellowstone-Sunday (10100001)+, Big Porcupine (10100002)+, Rosebud (10100003)+, Lower Yellowstone (10100004)+, O'fallon (10100005)+, Upper Little Missouri (10110201)+, Boxelder (10110202)+, Middle Little Missouri (10110203)+, Beaver (10110204)+, Antelope (10120101)+, Dry Fork Cheyenne (10120102)+, Upper Cheyenne (10120103)+, Lance (10120104)+, Lightning (10120105)+, Angostura Reservoir (10120106)+, Beaver (10120107)+, Hat (10120108)+, Upper Belle Fourche (10120201)+, Lower Belle Fourche (10120202)+, Redwater (10120203)+, Niobrara Headwaters (10150002)+, North Platte Headwaters (10180001)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+, Pathfinder-Seminoe Reservoirs (10180003)+, Medicine Bow (10180004)+, Little Medicine Bow (10180005)+, Sweetwater (10180006)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Glendo Reservoir (10180008)+, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+, Upper Laramie (10180010)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+, Horse (10180012)+, Cache La Poudre (10190007)+, Crow (10190009)+, Upper Lodgepole (10190015)+
14 Colorado headwaters (14010001)+, Blue (14010002)+, Eagle (14010003)+, Colorado headwaters-Plateau (14010005)+, Westwater Canyon (14030001)+, Upper Colorado-Kane Springs (14030005)+, Upper Green (14040101)+, New Fork (14040102)+, Upper Green-Slate (14040103)+, Big Sandy (14040104)+, Bitter (14040105)+, Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (14040106)+, Blacks Fork (14040107)+, Muddy (14040108)+, Vermilion (14040109)+, Great Divide closed basin (14040200)+, Upper Yampa (14050001)+, Lower Yampa (14050002)+, Little Snake (14050003)+, Muddy (14050004)+, Upper White (14050005)+, Piceance-Yellow (14050006)+, Lower White (14050007)+, Lower Green-Diamond (14060001)+, Ashley-Brush (14060002)+, Duchesne (14060003)+, Strawberry (14060004)+, Lower Green-Desolation Canyon (14060005)+, Willow (14060006)+, Price (14060007)+, San Rafael (14060009)+, Muddy (14070002)+, Fremont (14070003)+, Escalante (14070005)+*, Montezuma (14080203)+
15 Kanab (15010003)+
16 Upper Bear (16010101)+, Central Bear (16010102)+, Bear Lake (16010201)+, Middle Bear (16010202)+, Little Bear-Logan (16010203)+, Lower Bear-Malad (16010204)+, Upper Weber (16020101)+, Lower Weber (16020102)+, Utah Lake (16020201)+, Spanish Fork (16020202)+, Provo (16020203)+, Jordan (16020204)+*, Hamlin-Snake Valleys (16020301)+, Pine Valley (16020302)+, Rush-Tooele Valleys (16020304)+, Skull Valley (16020305)+, Southern Great Salt Lake Desert (16020306)+, Pilot-Thousand Springs (16020307)+, Northern Great Salt Lake Desert (16020308)+, Curlew Valley (16020309)+, Upper Sevier (16030001)+, East Fork Sevier (16030002)+, Middle Sevier (16030003)+, San Pitch (16030004)+, Lower Sevier (16030005)+, Escalante Desert (16030006)+, Beaver Bottoms-Upper Beaver (16030007)+, Upper Quinn (16040201)+, Thousand-Virgin (16040205)+, East Walker (16050301)+, Fish Lake-Soda Spring Valleys (16060010)+*
17 Lower Spokane (17010307)+, Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (17020001)+, Sanpoil (17020004)+, Chief Joseph (17020005)+, Okanogan (17020006)+, Methow (17020008)+, Upper Columbia-Entiat (17020010)+, Moses Coulee (17020012)+, Upper Crab (17020013)+, Banks Lake (17020014)+, Lower Crab (17020015)+, Upper Columbia-Priest Rapids (17020016)+, Upper Yakima (17030001)+, Naches (17030002)+, Lower Yakima, Washington (17030003)+, Snake headwaters (17040101)+, Gros Ventre (17040102)+, Greys-Hobock (17040103)+, Palisades (17040104)+, Salt (17040105)+, Idaho Falls (17040201)+, Upper Henrys (17040202)+, Lower Henrys (17040203)+, Teton (17040204)+, Willow (17040205)+, American Falls (17040206)+, Blackfoot (17040207)+, Portneuf (17040208)+, Lake Walcott (17040209)+, Raft (17040210)+, Goose (17040211)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Salmon Falls (17040213)+, Beaver-Camas (17040214)+, Medicine Lodge (17040215)+, Birch (17040216)+, Little Lost (17040217)+, Big Lost (17040218)+, Big Wood (17040219)+, Camas (17040220)+, Little Wood (17040221)+, C. J. Idaho (17050101)+, Bruneau (17050102)+, Middle Snake-Succor (17050103)+, Upper Owyhee (17050104)+, South Fork Owyhee (17050105)+, East Little Owyhee. Nevada, (17050106)+, Middle Owyhee (17050107)+, Jordan (17050108)+, Crooked-Rattlesnake (17050109)+, Lower Owyhee (17050110)+, South Fork Boise (17050113)+, Lower Boise (17050114)+, Upper Malheur (17050116)+, Lower Malheur (17050117)+, Bully (17050118)+, Willow (17050119)+, Payette (17050122)+, North Fork Payette (17050123)+, Weiser (17050124)+, Brownlee Reservoir (17050201)+, Burnt (17050202)+, Powder (17050203)+, Palouse (17060108)+, Lower Snake (17060110)+, Upper Salmon (17060201)+, Pahsimeroi (17060202)+, Middle Salmon-Panther (17060203)+, Lemhi (17060204)+, Middle Columbia-Lake Wallula (17070101)+, Beaver-South Fork (17070303)+, Upper Crooked (17070304)+, Lower Crooked (17070305)+, Harney-Malheur Lakes (17120001)+, Silvies (17120002)+, Donner Und Blitzen (17120003)+, Silver (17120004)+, Summer Lake (17120005)+, Lake Abert (17120006)+, Warner Lakes (17120007)+, Guano (17120008)+, Alvord Lake (17120009)+
18 Sprague (18010202)+*, Lost (18010204)+, Goose Lake (18020001)+, Upper Pit (18020002)+, Surprise Valley (18080001)+, Mono Lake (18090101)+, Crowley Lake (18090102)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A large bird (grouse).
General Description: This is a very large grayish grouse with a blackish belly and long pointed tail feathers; male has yellow eye combs, black throat and bib, large white ruff on breast, and averages larger than the female (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: This species differs from sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanchus phasianellus) in having a black belly and in lacking white outer tail feathers.
Reproduction Comments: This species is a lek breeder; up to 400 males may display in an area 0.8 kilometers long. Clutch size averages around seven to eight but is highly variable; variation may reflect habitat quality and nutritional condition of female (Connelly et al. 2000). Incubation, by the female, lasts 25-27 days. Young are precocial, downy, tended by female, fly when 7-14 days old. Productivity generally is low; reported nest failure 36 percent (Montana) to 76 percent (Oregon) (see Gregg et al. 1993). Renesting rates after nest loss are variable, from less than 10 percent to more than 40 percent (Connelly et al. 2000). Females are sexually mature in 1 year, though some or many yearlings may not nest. Most sage-grouse live 3-6 years or less, but individuals up to 9 years of age have been recorded in the wild (Connelly et al. 2004).
Ecology Comments: Males and females gather into separate flocks in winter, as do broodless hens in early summer.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Populations can be defined by their migration habit. Populations are either nonmigratory, or undertake a 1-stage migration or two-stage migration. One-stage migrants move between distinct summer and winter ranges, often 15-48 kilometers apart. Two-stage migrants move between breeding habitat, summer range, and winter range, and their annual movements can exceed 80 to 100 kilometers (Connelly 1999b). Fall movements to winter range can span several months, from late August to December (Connelly et al. 1988). Males and females flock separately. In some areas, populations make local elevational migrations between summer and winter habitats. See Schroeder et al. (1999) for more detail on migration habits.

Median dispersal distance from natal area to breeding area was about 7-9 kilometers in Colorado; probably over half of all yearling grouse attended natal-area lek (Dunn and Braun 1985). Sage-grouse moved average of 10-15 kilometers (up to 82 kilometers) between summer and winter ranges in Idaho. Over the year, individuals in migratory populations may cover home ranges that exceed 1,500 square kilometers; size of home ranges vary greatly with migratory habit and season (Connelly et al. 2000). Distances between nest sites and nearest leks average 1.1 to 6.2 kilometers, but females may move more than 20 kilometers from a lek to nest (Connelly et al. 2000). In Colorado, sage-grouse generally stayed within 6 kilometers of their lek (Schoenberg 1982).

Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Desert, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes foothills, plains, and mountain slopes where sagebrush is present (AOU 1983), often with a mixture of sagebrush, meadows, and aspen, in close proximity. This species uses a wide variety of sagebrush mosaic habitats, including (1) tall sagebrush types such as big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), three-tip sagebrush (A. tripartita), and silver sagebrush (A. cana); (2) low sagebrush types, such as low sagebrush (A. arbuscula) and black sagebrush (A. nova); (3) mixes of low and tall sagebrush with abundant forbs; (4) riparian and wet meadows; (5) steppe dominated by native forbs and bunchgrasses; (6) scrub-willow (Salix spp.); and (7) sagebrush/woodland mixes with juniper (Juniperus spp.), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), or quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides; Schroeder et al. 1999).

LEKKING: The quality of adjacent nesting and brood-rearing habitat may be the most important factor in lek choice, and males apparently form leks opportunistically within potential nesting habitat where female traffic is high (Wakkinen et al. 1992, Connelly 1999b, Schroeder et al. 1999, Connelly et al. 2000). Leks are located on relatively open sites surrounded by sagebrush, or in areas where sagebrush density is low, such as exposed ridges, knolls or grassy swales (Schroeder et al. 1999). Lek sites themselves are highly variable and may include many types of clearings and disturbed sites, including landing strips, old lake beds, roads, gravel pits, cropland, and burned areas in addition to natural openings (Connelly et al. 1981, Gates 1985, Schroeder et al. 1999, Connelly et al. 2000).

Habitats used by pre-laying females are also important for subsequent reproductive success. At this time, hens require areas rich with forbs that are high in calcium, phosphorus, and protein (Barnett and Crawford 1994, Connelly et al. in prep.). In Oregon, important forbs included desert-parsley (Lomatium spp.), hawksbeard (Crepis spp.), long-leaf phlox (Phlox longifolia Nutt.), everlasting (Antennaria spp.), clover (Trifolium spp.), mountain-dandelion (Agoseris spp.), Pursh's milk-vetch (Astragalus purshii Dougl.), obscure milk-vetch (A. obscurus), and buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.; Barnett and Crawford 1994).

NESTING: Hens typically nest in same specific area in successive years (Fisher et al. 1993). Nest in thick cover in sagebrush habitat, beneath a sagebrush or other shrub; nests are on the ground in a shallow depression. Usually choose areas dominated by sagebrush, in sites with taller sagebrush, greater shrub canopy cover, and more ground litter (Musil et al. 1994), and nest beneath one of tallest shrubs in stand with greater lateral cover (Roberson 1986, Wakkinen 1990). Occasionally use areas dominated by grasses or other shrubs (Schroeder et al. 1999). Proximity to water may be more important in some areas than in others (Schroder et al. 1999).

Both a dense sagebrush overstory and an herbaceous understory of grasses are important to provide shade and security, and both new herbaceous growth and residual cover are important in the understory (Connelly 1999b). Tall grass cover is critical for concealment and a warmer microclimate (Call and Maser 1985, Gregg et al. 1994). Most often nest beneath a sagebrush and approximately 20 percent of time may nest beneath other shrub species or grass, but nest success is higher beneath sagebrush than other shrubs (Connelly 1999b). In southeastern Idaho, nest success averaged 53 percent for females nesting under sagebrush, 22 percent for those using non-sagebrush cover (Connelly et al. 1991). Favor nesting in sagebrush 40 to 80 centimeters in height with 15 to 25 percent canopy cover (sometimes more than 30 percent), and grasses 15 to 30 centimeters high (usually more than 18 centimeters, measured in May) and 3 to 30 percent grass cover (15-25 percent best; Connelly 1999b).

In northern Washington, where native sagebrush habitats have been largely lost and greatly fragmented, females nest in older Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands that have been converted from wheat to a mix of crested wheatgrass, sagebrush, and native and non-native forbs. These areas typically have fragments of remnant sagebrush shrub-steppe in the surrounding landscape mosaic. Hens also nest in very small fragments of high-quality habitat within the fragmented landscape, and they move large distances from leks to nests and throughout the season (Braun and Schroeder 1999).

EARLY BROOD-REARING: Habitat for brood-rearing in early spring is critical to brood survival. Hens with broods tend to use sagebrush uplands adjacent to nest sites, but distance of movement varies (Connelly et al. 2000). Sagebrush overstory, herbaceous understory, and the presence of plentiful insects that provide a high-protein diet for broods (especially Hymenoptera and Coleoptera; species typical of sagebrush upland steppe) are the three important factors (Connelly 1999b). Stands may be relatively open (approximately 14 percent sagebrush canopy cover; Martin 1970, Wallestad 1971) with more than or equal to 5 percent grass and forb cover (Sveum et al. 1998).

SUMMER: As spring habitats dry, hens move their broods to wetter sites in June and July (Connelly et al. 2000). Habitats used are highly variable, but food-rich areas with succulent forbs and abundant insects are key. In this season, sage-grouse may roost in sagebrush and use seeps, wet meadows, riparian areas, alfalfa fields, potato fields, and other cultivated and irrigated areas. Males and broodless females use a wide variety of habitats, and they may move to uplands and into mountains, using high mountain meadows and grasslands (Connelly 1999b).

In southeastern Oregon, broodless hens moved to meadows by early July whereas hens with broods remained in upland habitats (Gregg et al. 1993); hens with broods initially selected low sagebrush cover types during early brood-rearing, big sagebrush cover types later in brood-rearing, and ultimately concentrated habitat use in and near lakebeds and meadows (Drut et al. 1994a). In Wyoming, broods most often occupied sagebrush-grass and sagebrush-bitterbrush habitats, in sites containing Stipa comata and Alyssum desertorum (Klott and Lindzey 1990).

WINTER: This species is well-adapted to winter extremes, but access to sagebrush for food and cover in all snow conditions is critical to survival. Individuals are known to move considerable distances to find good habitat, and winter ranges may exceed 140 square kilometers (Robertson 1991). Thus, sage-grouse require a landscape mosaic with a diversity of sagebrush canopy cover and heights over 100s of square kilometers (Connelly 1999b). Winter sites may be selected on the basis of topography and availability of sagebrush above the snow. Sage-grouse tend to feed in low, open sagebrush flats, and once these are covered with snow will move into taller sagebrush (Connelly 1999b). Favored conditions include stands with highest available sagebrush canopy cover (10-25 percent and up to 40 percent) and sagebrush heights of 25-30 centimeters above the snow level (Braun et al. 1977, Call and Maser 1985, Connelly 1999b). Sagebrush subspecies and stands that contain the highest levels of protein may be selected (Remington and Braun 1985). Sage-grouse use snow burrows for thermal cover, tunneling into soft drifts on the lee side of shrubs, or burrowing into dry soft snow (when snow depths more than 25 centimeters) in open, level areas without visible shrub cover above the snow (Back et al. 1987).

Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Sagebrush provide most of the winter diet. At other times of the year sage-grouse feed on sagebrush as well as the leaves, flowers, and buds of associated plants. They also eat insects (e.g., ants, beetles, grasshoppers; Terres 1980). Insects are especially important in the diet of newly hatched broods. In southeastern Oregon, chicks ate primarily forbs and insects at one site, but mostly sagebrush at another site (Drut et al. 1994b). Over the fall, birds shift from consuming large amounts of forbs to eating mostly sagebrush (Wallestad 1975). See Schroeder et al. (1999) for greater detail on diet and food selection.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 71 centimeters
Weight: 3190 grams
Economic Attributes
Economic Comments: The Columbia Basin DPS has not been subject to hunting since 1987 (WDFW 1995).
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Associated with both tall and short sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) types. Once widespread and abundant and was historically found in 16 western states and three provinces. Sagebrush conversion to agriculture, heavy livestock grazing, eradication of sagebrush with herbicides and burning, and continued development and fragmentation of sagebrush rangelands have dramatically reduced populations and eliminated the grouse from many parts of its former range. Populations that remain show continued declines and many are seriously threatened. Conservation planning is underway on a state by state basis.

USFWS (2013) mapped and characterized sage-grouse management zones and Priority Areas for Management (PACs) and presented general conservation objectives, as follows:

1. Stop population declines and habitat loss. There is an urgent need to "stop the bleeding" of continued population declines and habitat losses by acting immediately to eliminate or reduce the impacts contributing to population declines and range erosion. There are no populations within the range of sage-grouse that are immune to the threat of habitat loss and fragmentation.

2. Implement targeted habitat management and restoration. Some sage-grouse populations warrant more than the amelioration of the impacts from stressors to maintain sage-grouse on the landscape. In these instances, and particularly with impacts resulting from wildfire, it may be critical to not only remove or reduce anthropogenic threats to these populations but additionally to improve population health through active habitat management (e.g. habitat restoration). This is particularly important for those populations that are essential to maintaining range-wide redundancy and representation.

3. Develop and implement state and federal sage-grouse conservation strategies and associated incentive-based conservation actions and regulatory mechanisms. To conserve sage-grouse and habitat redundancy, representation, and resilience, state and federal agencies, along with interested stakeholders within range of the sage-grouse should work together to develop a plan, including any necessary regulatory or legal tools
(or use an existing plan, if appropriate) that includes clear mechanisms for addressing the threats to sage-grouse within PACs. Where consistent with state conservation plans, sagegrouse habitats outside of PACs should also be addressed. We recognize that threats can be ameliorated through a variety of tools within the purview of states and federal agencies, including incentive-based conservation actions or regulatory mechanisms. Federal land management agencies should work with states in developing adequate regulatory mechanisms. Federal land management agencies should also contribute to the incentive-based conservation and habitat restoration and rehabilitation efforts. In the development of conservation plans, entities (states, federal land management agencies, etc.) should coordinate with FWS. This will ensure that the plans address the threats contributing to the 2010 warranted but precluded determination, and that conservation strategies will meaningfully contribute to future listing analyses.

4. Develop and implement proactive, voluntary conservation actions. Proactive, incentivebased, voluntary conservation actions (e.g. Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, Natural Resources Conservation Service programs) should be developed and/or implemented by interested stakeholders and closely coordinated across the range of the species to ensure they are complimentary and address sage-grouse conservation needs and threats. These efforts need to receive full funding, including funding for
necessary personnel.

5. Develop and implement monitoring plans to track the success of state and federal conservation strategies and voluntary conservation actions. A robust range-wide monitoring program must be developed and implemented for sage-grouse conservation plans, which recognizes and incorporates individual state approaches. A monitoring program is necessary to track the success of conservation plans and proactive
conservation activities. Without this information, the actual benefit of conservation activities cannot be measured and there is no capacity to adapt if current management actions are determined to be ineffective.

6. Prioritize, fund, and implement research to address existing uncertainties. Increased funding and support for key research projects that will address uncertainties associated with sage-grouse and sagebrush habitat management is essential. Effective amelioration of threats can only be accomplished if the mechanisms by which those threats are imposed on the redundancy, representation, and resilience of the species and its habitats are understood.

See USFWS (2013) for further details.

Restoration Potential: Restoration will depend on increasing the viability of currently depressed populations, conservation of remaining sagebrush habitat, restoration of degraded habitats, and conservation planning on a landscape scale. Remnant populations in extremely fragmented landscapes may require intensive management efforts. Translocations may be necessary to maintain genetic variation and fitness, although translocation success has been mixed. Even where populations are more robust and widespread, habitat management and restoration is needed to reverse declining trends.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Conservation and stewardship requires a landscape perspective, as populations use extensive ranges and occur at low densities across a large landscape. Area requirements vary among populations, depending upon migratory habits and habitat quality, and are poorly understood.
Management Requirements: The reproduction and survival of juveniles and adults (as distinct from yearlings) are the demographic factors most important for population viability (Johnson and Braun 1999). Habitat management, by maintaining adequate levels of sagebrush canopy cover and understory grasses and forbs, is critical to reproduction and survival (Johnson and Braun 1999, Connelly 1999a). Updated population and habitat management guidelines are presently in development by Connelly et al. (2000). Also see Dunn and Braun (1986) and Braun et al. (1977) for habitat management guidelines. See Johnson and Boyce (1991) for information on successful methods for maintenance in captivity. See Welch et al. (1990) for management recommendations for the remnant population in Strawberry Valley, Utah.

HABITAT: Requires an extensive mosaic of sagebrush of varying densities and heights, high levels of native grass cover for nesting, and areas rich in high-protein forbs and insect foods during nesting and brood-rearing. The traditional standard for breeding habitat of a 3 kilometer radius circle around an occupied lek is now known to be insufficient to support breeding populations (Connelly 1999a). Manipulating stands to provide moderate levels of sagebrush cover (15-20%) and high levels of forb production will likely increase grouse reproduction and survival (Johnson and Braun 1999).

Nesting sites are irregularly distributed around leks, depending on location of quality habitat. Sagebrush overstory and grass understories are important to maintain for breeding habitat, with sagebrush canopy cover of 15-25 percent, grass equal to or greater than 18 centimeters tall (or equal to or greater than 15 centimeter visual obstruction reading on Robel pole) are optimum (Connelly 1999a). For summer brood-rearing, maintaining food-rich areas is important, including seeps, wet meadows, and riparian areas. Sagebrush and tall grasses provide escape cover. In winter, varied topography and maintaining a mosaic of sagebrush with a diversity of heights and densities over large areas are important to grouse survival. In all seasonal habitats, sagebrush control should be avoided unless it helps restore a sagebrush/steppe mosaic. The importance of native grasses and forbs in the understory to provide cover, food, and a productive insect fauna cannot be understated (Connelly 1999a). The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) can be a valuable avenue for providing a mosaic of native habitats in adjacent areas (Braun and Schroeder 1999).

GRAZING: Adjusting grazing regimes to promote the growth of native grasses and forbs in the understory will benefit grouse. Protect nesting sites from trampling and grazing during nesting season, maintain adequate grass height to provide nesting cover, and leave at least 50 percent of the annual growth as residual cover. Springs, wet meadows, and riparian areas should be protected from grazing, especially during summer brood-rearing months (Saab et al. 1995, Paige and Ritter 1999).

WATER DEVELOPMENTS: There is no clear evidence that water developments improve conditions for grouse and positively influence populations (Schroeder et al. 1999). However, many researchers advocate water developments. If used, developments should be placed in brood habitats or along migration corridors (Connelly 1999a).

BIOCIDES: Pesticides and herbicides can reduce the availability of insect and forb foods and impact nesting females and broods (Schroeder et al. 1999). Use of organophosphorus insecticides on agricultural lands adjacent to sagebrush resulted in grouse die-offs from direct mortality in southeastern Idaho (Blus et al. 1989). In summer, grouse often use croplands such as alfalfa where they are vulnerable to spraying (Connelly 1999a). Some heavy applications of herbicides are toxic (Schroeder et al. 1999). Pesticide use should be avoided during nesting and brood-rearing, and pest-control should be limited to minimum application rates, ground applications, baits, and natural pathogens (Paige and Ritter 1999).

DISTURBANCE: Most observed nest abandonments are directly or indirectly related to human activity, and nests are more likely to be abandoned if disturbed early in incubation (Schroeder et al. 1999).

PREDATOR CONTROL: Predation can have a large adverse impact on nest success, particularly as the composition of predator communities has changed with the elimination of large predators and subsequent increase in smaller species such as coyotes (CANIS LATRANS), raccoons (PROCYON LOTOR), and skunks (MEPHITES MEPHITES). However, predator control does not improve population size and stability over the long-term (Schroeder et al. 1999), and is too narrow of a management approach (Braun 1999b). Rather, improving habitat quality to provide good security cover will reduce vulnerability to predation (Braun 1999b).

HUNTING: Hunting is currently allowed in nine states. Seven states (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, and Nevada) regulate hunting by season length (ranging from 2 to 60 days, average 1 week) and bag limit (usually 2-4 birds). Oregon and California regulate hunting by permit and number of hunters (Stiver 1999). Harvest rates range from 3 to 11 percent (Braun 1998); harvesting of broods and brood hens can limit populations but timing of season can distribute hunting vulnerability more randomly across sexes and age groups. A population with fewer than 100 cocks probably cannot sustain hunting (Stiver 1999). Although current rates of hunting mortality are thought to be compensatory, Schroeder et al. (1999) advocate caution in regard to hunting regulation, citing the lack of empirical tests on the impacts of hunting.

Monitoring Requirements: Lek surveys are the most widely used monitoring method and can return data useful for population trends, size, and breeding range. At least three counts (equal to or more than two weeks apart) are made between March and May. Counts are conducted at sunrise in good weather, and poor counts (e.g., poor weather or disturbance by a predator) are repeated. In addition, consistent effort needs to be made to search for new leks (Schroeder 1999).

Hunting harvests are now too small and hunting questionnaires too few to return adequate sample sizes. Brood counts provide information on productivity, but returns are highly variable. Radio telemetry is useful for research, and can provide information on trends, productivity, and ranges. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing are used to examine landscape relationships and can help set priorities for monitoring (Schroeder 1999).

Hen behavior may deceive observers about the presence of broods. When surprised at close range, hens with broods typically go into a distraction display. However, if a hen sees a predator (or observer) coming from a distance, she may flush and fly which can be misinterpreted as a hen without a brood (Connelly 1999b).

Management Programs: Voluntary conservation plans are being developed on a state by state basis and several plans are complete. Conservation plans define short and long-term goals for both populations and habitat and use incentives to encourage landowner involvement (Braun 1999b). Nine states (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon and California) currently allow hunting seasons on sage grouse. Contact state fish and wildlife agencies for hunting regulations and/or status of conservation plans for each state. Translocation projects have been conducted in Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oregon, British Columbia, Colorado, and Idaho (Musil et al. 1994), but only a few attempts (Colorado, Utah, and Idaho) have been successful (Reese and Connelly 1997, Connelly et al. 2000). Advocate groups include the Prairie Grouse Technical Council.
Monitoring Programs: There are currently no standardized protocols for inventory and monitoring. Although methods vary, many states undertake regular lek surveys and other survey efforts.
Management Research Programs: Several states and provinces have undertaken a wide variety of management research projects on sage grouse.
Management Research Needs: An inventory of remaining habitat and habitat quality is needed. The largest information gap currently is grouse landscape relationships. Further research is needed on effects of fragmentation, area requirements, use of habitat corridors, population movements throughout the seasons, juxtaposition of habitats, the relationship between habitat quality and grouse movements, and differences among populations and regions across the species' range. Population demographics, impacts on productivity and survival, and viable population sizes need more study. The effects of habitat manipulations on grouse also need further study, especially grazing regimes, pesticide applications, and habitat fragmentation. Further research is greatly needed on how to restore sagebrush habitat and grouse populations, such as reclaiming cheatgrass-invaded areas, restoring native grasses and forbs, and the fate of translocated birds.
Biological Research Needs: Basic research on population dynamics is one of the most important research needs.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Nest site, Lek site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of breeding (including historical); and potential recurring breeding at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of two or more breeding birds at a lek, or a female with eggs or young.
Mapping Guidance: Occurrence includes not only the lek(s) and nest sites, but also the surrounding areas used for feeding. Because occurrence separations are based on leks, different occurrences may overlap (e.g., when foraging or nonbreeding areas overlap).

If winter and summer ranges are distinctly separate, map using separate polygons. If they are more than 15 kilometers apart, separate breeding and nonbreeding occurrences should be created.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 15 km
Separation Justification: Unsuitable habitat includes open water, closed forests.

Separation distance is based on leks; leks separated by a gap smaller than the separation distance represent the same occurrence. Separation distance is arbitrary and is not intended to establish occurrences that represent discrete populations. Instead, it attempts to balance the high mobility of these birds against the need for occurrences of practical size for conservation purposes.

Home ranges may be very large, especially in migratory populations. Average nest to lek distance is about 3 kilometers (Connelly et al. 2000).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Measured from a lek; based on a minimum average distance from nests to leks of 1.1 kilometers (Connelly et al. 2000).
Date: 28Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S. G., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 02Sep2013
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Management Information Edition Date: 02Sep2013
Management Information Edition Author: Paige, C., M. Koenen, D. W. Mehlman, and G. Hammerson
Management Information Acknowledgments: Support for the preparation of this abstract was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Initiative, through challenge grant number 97-270 to The Nature Conservancy, Wings of the Americas Program. Matching funds for this grant were donated by Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 24Sep2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Paige, C., G. Hammerson, and S. Cannings

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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