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  • Writer's pictureCat Urbigkit

Grousing



Jim and I left the house early one morning a few weeks ago to visit a nearby sage grouse lek. By this time of the breeding season most of the serious disputes between strutting male grouse are over, but there is still time to watch the grouse strutting on these traditional breeding grounds without disturbing the birds or disrupting their activity.


When we arrived to watch the grouse on a lek we’ve visited for decades, instead of finding any grouse we found a pickup truck parked nearby with two photography blinds set up on the lek.


With that kind of disturbance, it’s no wonder that there wasn’t a grouse in sight.


Greater sage-grouse require sagebrush-covered landscapes to survive, but their leks are usually in open areas where males can be better seen and heard by females, according to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and that makes for great viewing opportunities for the public.


WG&F publishes locations of selected leks scattered throughout the state so that the public can observe and enjoy this fascinating wildlife spectacle.


But before visiting a lek, it’s important to read and understand the guidelines for lek viewing so that your presence doesn’t disturb this important breeding ritual of an imperiled species.


WG&F recommends:

  • Arrive at lek sites at least one hour before sunrise

  • Don’t drive onto the lek. Park away from the edge of the lek.

  • Turn off the vehicle lights and engine.

  • Use binoculars and spotting scopes to observe birds.

  • Stay in your vehicle.

  • Do not make loud noises or sudden movements.

  • Do not leave until the birds do.

  • Keep pets in your vehicle. Better yet, leave them home.

  • Do not trespass on private land.

  • Postpone your visit if roads are muddy.

  • Do not construct wildlife or photography viewing blinds on or near lek.

  • Be especially cautious with viewing activities during late March and early April when breeding activity usually peaks. Late April is a better time to visit because most of the breeding is complete but the males are still actively strutting. The weather is usually better too.

To learn more about viewing sage grouse on their breeding grounds, check out this WG&F page. There’s still time to enjoy the spring strut, so get out there and spy on our wild neighbors – in a way that minimizes disturbance to their annual ritual.



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