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September 14, 2010

Grouse and pheasant observations down, while turkey up

MADISON - A wet spring may have resulted in lower production of grouse and pheasants, while turkey production may be up slightly, according to preliminary results of brood observations made over a 10-week period this spring and summer.

Each year, state and federal wildlife and conservation employees conduct brood production surveys of pheasants, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, and other upland game birds spanning June, July and August. New in 2010, citizens could also report observations through the online Game Bird Brood Survey.

This year, weather in Wisconsin during the months of June, July and August was wet and warm, with rainfall 4 to 8 inches above average and temperatures 1 to 2 degrees above average during the survey period.

"It is likely that some brood losses occurred during this wet hatching and brood-rearing period," said Brian Dhuey, wildlife surveys coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. "However, there were also many reports of early broods from field personnel and larger chicks are better able to withstand these wet conditions. This may have helped mitigate brood losses due to wet weather."

Weather during the early part of June typically is the most critical period for brood success say biologists, as this is when chicks are hatching and are most susceptible to hypothermia if they get wet. Much of Wisconsin had above average rainfall from June 11-17 when a large portion of the state received rainfall 150-200 percent above normal. Temperatures were normal to above normal during this same period.

A Summer Wildlife Inquiry (SWI) survey also was sent to about 5,000 rural landowners throughout the state in mid-August, asking for observations of nine different wildlife species, including five different upland game birds, on their property.

Ruffed Grouse

DNR personnel reported a downturn in grouse production in 2010, with an 8 percent decline in the number of broods seen per observer (0.83) from 2009 levels (0.90).

The number of rural landowners reporting ruffed grouse on their property was down 10 percent from last year and 32 percent below the long-term mean. Brood size as reported by DNR personnel was up slightly with 4.1 young per brood reported in 2010, compared to 4.0 reported in 2009. The size of grouse broods observed by the public on the online game bird brood survey was 5.1. This is the first year of the online game bird brood survey so no comparison to previous years can be made.

"The grouse drumming survey in the spring showed a downturn of 5 percent in the number of breeding grouse in the state in 2010," said Sharon Fandel, acting DNR upland wildlife ecologist. "Brood production is also down slightly from last year. It is likely that Wisconsin is at or slightly past the current grouse cycle high."


The number of pheasant broods seen per observer by DNR field personnel fell 33 percent from 2009 levels, from 0.24 in 2009 to 0.16 in 2010.

Rural landowners reporting pheasants on their property were down 8 percent from last year and are at the same level as the long-term mean. Pheasant brood size was down as well, with DNR field personnel reporting 4.3 young per brood in 2010, compared to 5.2 in 2009.

The size of pheasant broods observed by the public on the online game bird brood survey was 5.3. No comparison to previous years can be made as this was the first year of the online game bird brood survey.

"Two of the past three winters and springs have been hard on pheasants," says Fandel. "The number of pheasants reported during the spring crowing counts was down 3 percent in 2010, and 35 percent over the last two years, meaning there were lower numbers of pheasants to produce broods, resulting in a downturn in pheasant production."


DNR field personnel reported a 3 percent increase in the number of turkey broods observed in 2010 (3.44 broods per observer) compared to 2009 levels (3.34 broods per observer).

The number of rural landowners reporting turkeys on their land was down 1 percent from 2009 levels, but still remained 67 percent above the long-term mean. The average size of broods observed by DNR personnel was 4.5, which is slightly higher than the 4.2 observed last year.

Rural landowners reporting turkey broods reported that 34 percent of the hens had a brood and a brood averaged 4.1 poults. In 2009, 50 percent of the hens had broods and the average brood size was 4.0 poults. Participants in the online game bird brood survey reported 3.9 young per brood. This is the first year of the online game bird brood survey so no comparison to previous years can be made.

"Turkey brood production seems to have leveled off a bit from previous years' losses but is still below levels of high production years," Brian Dhuey.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey at (608) 221-6342 or Sharon Fandel at (608) 261-8458 for more information.

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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