Sunday, October 27, 2019

Update on DEC’s Spruce Grouse Recovery Efforts

researcher capturing a spruce grouse by Angelena Ross DEC Wildlife Staff is involved in a spruce grouse translocation project to help boost numbers of the state-endangered spruce grouse and to improve genetic diversity of the remaining population in New York.

To meet the goal of maintaining their population in NY over the next 100 years, wildlife staff believe they will need to release 250 adult individuals from outside populations into NY over the next five years and manage habitat at several sites.

To meet the translocation objective, staff released 34 adult spruce grouse and 71 young in 2018 and 50 adults and 111 young in 2019. Staff have been maintaining locations on grouse using radio telemetry at least once per week since grouse were released this past August. After release, spruce grouse have been observed moving within and between lowland boreal forests (their habitat). They have also been observed “flocking up” with resident spruce grouse, a behavior that resident NY spruce grouse also do in the fall.

spruce grouse in transit by Angelena RossMost of the females released in 2018 that survived until the 2019 breeding season attempted to nest and some reared young in 2019. Approximately half of released grouse lived to breed the following year, which is slightly below the average for resident grouse.

DEC urges folks to be aware of the presence of spruce grouse in the northern Adirondacks when driving on dirt roads from as far west as Cranberry Lake to as far east as Bloomingdale. Spruce grouse can congregate in small numbers on roads to eat gravel and may be mistaken for ruffed grouse during the hunting season.

For more information check out the Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan or email

Photos, from above: researcher capturing a spruce grouse; and spruce grouse in transit by Angelena Ross

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7 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Great news!

  2. Tanner says:

    Spruce grouse are common in Canada.As climate change modifies habitat is this really the best way to spend limited resources? This program has been ongoing for years, and the mortality rate of individual birds from the time of capture in Canada to the time of release in NY, not to mention after release, is very high. Perhaps we should let spruce grouse decide if they want to live here by allowing natural migration to occur.

  3. Ryan Finnigan says:

    This article has me wondering how may tickets have actually been written to hunters who have mistakenly shot spruce grouse when hunting for ruffed grouse?

    • Boreas says:


      Likely none or very few. Because of their rarity it probably doesn’t happen much to begin with. Plus, they don’t take to the wing/flush as easily as a Ruffie. Sportsmen usually don’t shoot grouse on the ground, and Spruce Grouse are about as likely to approach you as much as run away. They don’t really look or act like Ruffies. But I am sure over the years some have been shot, either by mistake or poached. Not likely a DEC person would be around to witness it.

    • Boreas says:

      Oh, yeah, – another important reason is the habitat difference. Must people hunting for Ruffies do so in an upland area (think deer, turkey habitat), whereas Spruce Grouse tend to favor swampy, brushy, boggy areas that are quite difficult to hunt effectively.

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