Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Adirondack Wild Calls For Action On Spruce Grouse

On Endangered Species Day, May 17, Adirondack Wild is renewed its call for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect the endangered spruce grouse, which occupies a few select areas in the Adirondack Park. The spruce grouse requires specialized habitat in low-elevation boreal woods and wetlands which in New York State are found only in the Adirondack Park.

According to DEC’s 2012 Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan, the species is restricted to just 15 scattered populations in the Adirondack Park, nine of which are concentrated in the Raquette-Boreal area west of the Carry Falls Reservoir.

These isolated areas of spruce grouse habitat are shrinking in size. DEC determined in 2012 that the spruce grouse’s range had declined more than 50% in the preceding 20 years. According to the authors of the DEC’s Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan, in 2006 there were “probably less than 75-100 adult spruce grouse in the state.”

“There are only a few habitats where the spruce grouse hangs on in our state,” Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson said in a statement sent to the press. “New York has a high level of responsibility for ensuring that spruce grouse breeding habitats are restored and not threatened by human development or recreational uses.”

“We are asking the DEC to commit today to taking active measures to not only protect existing occupied habitats but to restore spruce grouse populations to historic locations where the bird once lived, but is no longer found – as called for in the NYS Endangered Species Act and the DEC Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan,” Gibson added.

According to DEC biologists, the Boreal Primitive Area near Carry Falls reservoir includes 30% of the sites which are thought to still support the endangered spruce grouse in New York State. Included among these nine sites are several sites that appear to be among the best remaining sites for the species in the state.

The 2006 Unit Management Plan for the Raquette-Boreal area, written by the DEC and approved by the Adirondack Park Agency, states that “the number of [spruce grouse] sites and their close proximity to one another undoubtedly makes the Raquette Boreal Forest one of the most important areas in the state with regard to the preservation and possible recovery of spruce grouse populations in New York State.”

Photo of female spruce grouse courtesy Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada.

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9 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    If you look at the DEC info on management of spruce grouse habitat it looks like a big factor in the decline of these birds is due to maturation of the forest types they prefer. It looks like along with protecting these areas you would also want to selectively log them in a way that you don’t get a too mature spruce stands. Do some of the management things like they do for ruffed grouse in places like the Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area. Just protecting the habitat and adding more birds is not all that needs to be done to improve these populations.
    Here is the full recovery plan here:

    https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/89794.html

  2. Paul says:

    Seems like you would also have to prohibit grouse hunting in these areas. You can’t tell this bird from a ruffed grouse that has been flushed by a bird dog and is fling away at a high rate of speed. Good bird hunters don’t shoot birds on the ground or in trees.

    • Boreas says:

      Paul,

      Oddly enough, I have seen 3 of these birds on dufferent occasions over the years and all 3 approached me (! ) – then they just sauntered off into the brush. They don’t seem to have much fear of humans. I hope they would fear dogs.

      • Paul says:

        Cool to see such as relatively rare bird 3 times! I assume that a dog would probably get their attention although I am more afraid of people than dogs! My point is if they flush you can’t identify them from a RG on the wing. Would be sad to shoot one by accident. The area to ban grouse hunting is tiny.

  3. adkcamp says:

    The state pays for spruce grouse introduction to the area, pays to monitor the activities and movement of these birds year round, and then introduces a plan to build a road in the same area that promises to enhance access of motorized activity and recreational use. Opposing goals and priorities, tax payers expense, threatening the habitat of these birds.

    • Paul says:

      It sounds like their ideal habitat includes human manipulation. If you just protect and allow the forest to mature the birds are gone.

      • Boreas says:

        Paul,

        It would be interesting to know what their pre-Columbian range was. By that I mean, did they actually migrate into the area from Canada as we started significant logging and resultant fires? Were their post-glacial numbers high and their range shrunk with natural reforestation?

  4. Tanner says:

    How much impact has years of reintroducing had on the Spruce grouse population in NY? Is there a significant increase? How many birds have survived? Spruce grouse are NOT an international endangered species. They are hunted in Canada. How much of their decline in NY is the result of climate change? I’m not necessarily against the program I am just curious about the effectiveness of it as we see DEC personnel decreased and environmental degradation in the Park and wonder if that money could be better spent.

    • Boreas says:

      Tanner,

      Spruce grouse preservation in NYS is likely a losing battle. Up to this point, most of the habitat changes have been due to different types of logging practices in some areas and forest maturation in others. There also was a spruce blight in the early part of the 20th century that took out about a third of the spruce forest. I don’t believe there is much evidence to support any major PAST changes due to climate change. However, since warming seems to be occurring twice as fast in the ADKs than globally, if the trend continues in the long term, the lowland spruce forest in NYS is likely doomed as well as its wild denizens that depend on that specific forest type. This will likely be the case for other micro-habitats as well. The future looks certainly better for generalists.

      Where is the money best spent? I would say where it can realistically make a long-term difference.

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