Thursday, April 4, 2013

DEC Plans To Introduce Spruce Grouse

close-up-of-maleThe state may introduce spruce grouse into the Adirondacks as early as this year to bolster a native population that appears headed for extinction.

Without intervention, the state’s spruce-grouse population could vanish by 2020, according to a recovery plan released today by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The spruce grouse is perhaps the best-known icon and a perfect representative of boreal habitats in New York,” said Michale Glennon, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program, in a DEC news release.

The authors of the plan, DEC biologist Angelena Ross and her former professor, Glenn Johnson of Potsdam State College, estimate that only seventy-five to a hundred spruce grouse remain in the state.

Unlike the ruffed grouse, which dwells throughout the Adirondack Park, the spruce grouse is found only in the lowland boreal habitat of the northwestern part of the Park—habitat characterized by black spruce and tamarack trees. Common in Canada, the spruce grouse is at the southern end of its range in the Adirondacks.

Johnson told Adirondack Almanack that a dozen or so spruce grouse from Ontario might be released in the Adirondacks this year. If these birds fare well, DEC plans to release more in the future. He said scientists are looking at several possible sites.

Eventually, Johnson hopes the Adirondacks will harbor five hundred or so spruce grouse.

In the 1800s, spruce grouse were far more common in the Adirondacks. Logging destroyed much of their habitat and fragmented the remnant populations.

Another issue is that much of the remaining lowland boreal forest may be too mature to support spruce grouse, which prefer middle-aged stands. DEC is working with timber companies to optimize habitat on private lands.

Some have questioned whether it’s practical to save the spruce grouse, given the lack of habitat and the threat of global warming. Johnson, however, believes the plan will work.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “Having said that, if it doesn’t, we tried.

Click here to read an earlier story on the recovery plan, before DEC adopted it.

Click here to download the plan.

Photo by Angelena Ross: male spruce grouse.

 

Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.


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8 Responses

  1. Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

    I have never seen a spruce grouse in the Adirondacks, but I saw several when I worked in Maine for a summer. A very beautiful bird. Good luck spruce grouse, I wish you well.

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  2. catharus says:

    I sure hope it’s successful!

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  3. Mike says:

    Is this a good use of our limited resources? If the Adirondacks is already on the southern fringe of the spruce grouse’s range, and we know climate change is pushing that range farther north and will be for the forseeable future, aren’t we trying to put the grouse somewhere where it doesn’t really want to be? Maybe save this one for after we get the climate stabilized and the spruce grouse will then have a fighting chance?

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    Sounds like a great idea. Good luck.

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  5. Jim Fox says:

    Good luck! Beautiful bird.

    Mike – how naive…”we” get the climate stabilized?

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  6. Mike says:

    Jim- yup, BS in Zoology, ADK 46er, 30 years doing environmental work. Naive…. that’s me ;-)

    (ok then, “THEY” get the climate stabilized)

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  7. Ellen says:

    I sure hope this works out. I consider myself lucky to have seen a pair (!) of Spruce Grouse walking down a dirt road in the Adirondacks many years ago.

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  8. […] The Department of Environmental Conservation in New York State might introduce Spruce Grouse into the Adirondacks as early as this year to help repopulate the native population […]

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