Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Researcher: Ravens may threaten Wyoming sage grouse

RAWLINS, Wyo. (AP) – A researcher says
Wyoming’s booming raven population could threaten the state’s
greater sage grouse population.

Mike Conover, a wildlife biologist at Utah State University,
tells the Rawlins Daily Times that the sage grouse are big
birds with big eggs, which make them tempting targets for
ravens.

Conover is finishing a four-year study of sage grouse nesting in
southwest Wyoming. He says it appears many nests fail because
ravens eat the eggs and the young.

“Sage grouse are big birds, so they have large eggs, and that
makes them tempting to an animal like a raven,” he said.

Moving or killing ravens isn’t easy because they’re protected by
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It’s illegal to kill them
without a permit. Although there aren’t many statistics, Conover
said the raven population is swelling unchecked in Wyoming, as the
birds have few significant predators.

The Wyoming sage grouse population appears to be rebounding from
a historic low 15 years ago.

The sage grouse coordinator with the Wyoming Game and Fish
Department, Tom Christiansen, said wildlife officials are looking
at human garbage to address the raven problem.

“It’s not a surprise ravens are a concern,” he said. “They
take advantage of the garbage we freely distribute across the
landscape, they nest on human structures – we’ve really expanded
their range.”

Christiansen says ravens could be reduced “by covering our
dumps and burying our dead animals.”

“We can try and limit their artificial food supply,”
Christiansen said.

A representative of Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative –
a multi-agency group that funded $37,000 of Conover’s study and
invited him to speak during a July meeting in Pinedale – is hopeful
new data have more applications.

“We’re not focusing so much on the predation part as the sage
grouse movement and habitat use,” said Rene Davis, Landscape
Conservation Initiative coordinator. “More studies means more help
to track collars on birds, see where they are, and see where they
need help.”

 

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