CONTACT: Jeff Fetzer
Phone: (570) 885-6112
Date: Feb. 21, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“What’s happening to our ruffed grouse?” has become a familiar refrain among hunters and bird watchers who have noticed an appreciable decline in sightings of Pennsylvania’s state bird in recent years.
Data gathered from decades of hunter-reported grouse flush rates, as well as Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts in the state, bear out the notion that the ruffed grouse population in Pennsylvania has reached historic lows.
Lisa Williams, a wildlife biologist who serves as the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s program specialist for ruffed grouse and webless migratory game birds, will share her thoughts on the status and management of ruffed grouse in Pennsylvania during the Susquehanna River Valley Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society’s second annual Conservation and Sportsmen’s Banquet on Saturday, March 10, at the Genetti Hotel in Williamsport.
Williams will also discuss her recent recommendation to the state Board of Game Commissioners to cancel the traditional post-Christmas late season for grouse for the 2018-19 hunting season.
At the Jan. 29, 2018, Game Commission meeting, Williams cited a significant decline in ruffed grouse numbers as impetus for her recommendation to close the late grouse season for a second consecutive year.
“Grouse in Pennsylvania are in a pretty dangerous place,” she said during a webinar posted to the Pennsylvania Game Commission website earlier this month.
Williams has additionally proposed that future season-setting for ruffed grouse hunting be guided by a “responsive harvest framework” that relies on indicators of grouse abundance and reproductive success, along with the prevalence of West Nile virus. The responsive harvest framework would incorporate a split-zone approach to season setting that divides the state into a Northern Management Zone and a Southern Management Zone. The split-zone approach takes into account the different population trends, harvest pressure and habitat of the state’s northern counties versus its southern counties.
In 2015, Williams began a first-in-the-nation study to determine the impact of West Nile virus on grouse populations. West Nile virus is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes that first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2000. If has been found in more than 125 species of birds, and can cause illness and occasionally death in human and horses.
Williams’ ongoing research has determined that in years when the presence of West Nile virus is high, grouse populations tend to tumble. Her studies have also found that in year’s when West Nile virus is less prevalent, grouse numbers can rebound in areas where there is abundant high-quality habitat.
For ruffed grouse, that habitat is young forest, also called early succession habitat, and it has been on the decline in Pennsylvania for decades. In recent years, the Game Commission has partnered with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry and the Ruffed Grouse Society to ramp up efforts to create young forest habitat that is so vital to the survival of ruffed grouse and a variety of other bird and mammal species.
One of these partnership habitat projects is under way in Loyalsock State Forest near Forksville. Sponsored by the Susquehanna River Valley RGS chapter, the Nettle Ridge Habitat Project is a multi-year initiative that involves the creation of a patchwork of small blocks of early succession habitat by clearcutting stands of low-value timber, predominantly birch species.
Brian Laudermilch, a forester with the state Bureau of Forestry’s Loyalsock State Forest district who spearheaded the Nettle Ridge habitat work, will also be on hand at the March 10 Conservation and Sportsmen’s Banquet to discuss the project, which began last fall.
The banquet will being with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. Dinner is set for 7 p.m. and will feature talks by Williams, Laudermilch and RGS biologist Dr. Linda Ordiway.
The evening will also offer a variety of live and silent auctions, raffles, drawings and door prizes, highlighted with a selection of fine firearms, artwork and collectibles.
Proceeds from the fund-raising banquet will be used to enhance and create young forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife on public land.
For more information or to purchase tickets, contact ticket chairman Jeff Fetzer at (570) 885-6112 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Banquet registration deadline is Monday, March 5. Additional information can be found on the chapter website, www.susquehannagrouse.com.