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Regional West Nile virus monitoring effort for ruffed grouse to begin this fall

Published by Central Office August 7, 2018

Contact(s): Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861

MADISON -- In collaboration with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society, and Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources will begin a multi-year monitoring program this fall looking at West Nile virus (WNV) in ruffed grouse.

Ruffed grouse- Photo credit: DNR
Ruffed grouse.Photo credit: DNR

The DNR is asking ruffed grouse hunters for their participation in this monitoring effort. Similar to past disease monitoring efforts, the department is asking that hunters submit samples from their harvested ruffed grouse using self-sampling kits. This effort will focus on the core ruffed grouse range in the central and northern forests.

The DNR has assembled 400 self-sampling kits for ruffed grouse hunters to use in 2018. The WNV sampling kits contain detailed instructions and all the supplies needed to collect and ship one sample. Hunters will be asked to collect a small amount of blood along with the heart from their harvested grouse.

If you hunt the central and northern forests and would like to participate in the West Nile virus monitoring effort, sampling kits can be requested through your county wildlife biologist and will be available in early September. The number of kits provided per individual may be limited to ensure samples come from a large geographic area.

Hunters will be provided test results via email. Be aware that testing of samples will not begin until after the grouse season has closed and final results will not be available for several months after the close of the season. WNV is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and there is no evidence that WNV can be spread by handling dead birds or by consuming properly cooked game. It is one of several bird diseases afflicting native bird species.

Sick and Dead Birds

In addition to collecting samples from harvested ruffed grouse, the DNR is asking the public to report any sick or dead grouse observed while out in the field.

If you see any ruffed grouse that appear sick or emaciated, or if you find a freshly dead grouse, take note of the location and promptly call your county wildlife biologist for possible submission of the dead grouse for further investigation and to help us keep track of such reports statewide.

If you are willing to collect the carcass testing, please keep the entire bird intact. Place it into a plastic bag and keep the bird cool, but not frozen. Bring the whole ruffed grouse carcass to your county wildlife biologist the same or next day. Prompt collection of ruffed grouse is necessary to prevent decomposition or scavenging. It is recommended you wear gloves whenever handling dead animals, even those that appear healthy.

If refrigeration and prompt delivery are not possible, carcasses should be frozen and submitted to county wildlife biologists as soon as possible.

Carcasses in poor condition (scavenged with openings into the body cavity, having an odor, more advanced decomposition) will not be usable for testing, but please take note of the location and report these sightings to your county wildlife biologist.

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773