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Sharp-tailed grouse numbers decline

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ST. PAUL - Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest, the bird's primary range in Minnesota, were similar to 2012 while counts in the east-central region declined significantly, according to Minnesota DNR officials.

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During the spring mating season, observers look for and count male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. Those figures are used to estimate the state's sharp-tailed grouse population.

Despite several years of declining numbers, this year's statewide average of 9.2 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Overall, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.

The DNR's 2013 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online.

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