Excerpts from 2016 Wisconsin DNR Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey
Wisconsin statewide ruffed grouse population indices increased 1% from 2015 to 2016, based on the number of drumming grouse heard during roadside surveys. Changes in breeding grouse populations varied by region and the statewide mean number of drums per stop were not different from 2015 to 2016. Drummer densities on the Sandhill Wildlife Area in Wood County showed an increase of 2%.
While grouse populations ebb and rise on a nine to eleven-year cycle, a longer term downward trend can be noted for the Wisconsin Grouse population since the inception of this survey. Grouse highs are not as high as they have been in the past and the population seems to be slower to recover from cyclic lows. The long term aging of Wisconsin’s forest are likely playing a role in these changes. Not all regions of the state see these changes in forest aging occurring at the same rate, with the more commercial forests of the Northern and Central regions aging at a slower rate than the more privately owned forests of the Southwest and Southeast regions. It is likely this trend in grouse numbers will continue to occur until our forests reach a stasis in their aging process.
Early spring conditions were above average for temperature with most of the snow melted before the start of the survey in the spring of 2016. No major weather events should have affected surveyors during the survey period, but more typical weather returned during the second part of the inquiry period and may have reduced surveyor’s evaluations. Overall survey conditions were “excellent” on 45% of transects run, while 65% rated the overall conditions as “excellent” in 2015. Conditions were rated as “Fair”, the lowest available weather condition rating, 5% of the time in 2015 and 7% in 2016. Survey conditions do influence drumming activity and may cause grouse numbers to be over or under estimated.
View the complete 2016 Ruffed Grouse Survey here 2016 grouse drumming survey Survey contains drumming locations, charts, and graphs of the drumming data.
Update September 9, 2016; Wisconsin’s 2016 brood counts. The following excerpt provided by WDNR.
Statewide, ruffed grouse broods seen per observer hour were down 17 percent compared to 2015 and 43 percent below the long-term mean. Ruffed Grouse production was down in two of the three regions that compose the primary range: Central (11.1 percent decrease), northern (14.2 percent decrease), and Southwestern (43.3 percent increase). Ruffed grouse brood size fell from 4.2 young per brood in 2015 to 4 in 2016.”Breeding grouse numbers were up slightly this spring, while brood production in the primary ruffed grouse range showed a decrease,” said Dhuey. “Several severe rain events likely caused declines in brood survival in the areas they occurred — while there were losses in these areas, these events were not wide-spread, and it is probable that brood production in Wisconsin is patchy, with areas of good and poor brood production and survival. While some areas of the primary ruffed grouse range will be better than others, it appears that ruffed grouse numbers will be similar or slightly worse than last year.”
Ruffed grouse are currently in a cyclic low population cycle. While an increase in breeding grouse is a positive sign, it will likely be a few years until Wisconsin returns to the birds’ cyclic high. (courtesy of WDNR)