Indiana May List Grouse as Endangered

Indiana May List Grouse as Endangered
Shutterstock/Agnieszka Bacal
Curtis Niedermier

According to Steve Backs, a wildlife-research biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, public misperception about responsible timber management is a big reason why ruffed grouse habitat has disappeared from Indiana in recent decades—and why population decline as a result of habitat loss is the main reason that the Indiana Nongame Bird Technical Advisory Committee issued a proposal last summer to move the ruffed grouse from the State List of Species of Special Concern to the State Endangered Species List. At press time the change was up for review by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Unfortunately, listing grouse as endangered in Indiana seems warranted. According to Backs, the state’s grouse population is estimated at less than 1 percent of what it was 40 years ago, and in 2018 not a single grouse was heard drumming during spring roadside counts for the sixth consecutive year. Grouse hunting in Indiana was suspended in 2015.

“To put that into perspective,” Backs said, “in the early ’80s we were harvesting over 10,000 birds a year. We were also trapping and trading grouse for wild turkeys and helping other states with their restoration of ruffed grouse.”

Backs has been sounding the call to manage timber resources for habitat diversity for more than 20 years, but he says modern land-use practices, public policy and social trends with regard to harvesting timber have been major hurdles. The potential listing could bring needed publicity to the issue and light a fire under wildlife managers and influencers in other nearby states where the bird is cruising toward a similar fate. It also would provide additional legal protection in the Hoosier State.

“By moving [grouse] to state endangered, any proposed state construction, public-service projects or timber management on public land will have to include some type of environmental review as to whether the proposed project will possibly negatively impact ruffed grouse populations or create or enhance habitat for ruffed grouse,” Backs said.

The Ruffed Grouse Society recently issued a public letter with a call to action regarding the proposed Indiana listing.

For more information, contact the Ruffed Grouse Society.

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  • From Ruffed Grouse to Quail, we must realize that it’s as much a predator problem as it is habitat. Every single winged predator is now completely protected. Many other predators, are either protected, or are really not hunted as they have been in the past! Yes, it has something to do with habitat, and modern farming practices, but predators make the most lasting impact on Upland Game Bird Numbers! Doves, have learned to adapt, and do not nest upon the ground! They also nest several times in a season as well. West Virginia studied nesting sites many years ago, by placing cameras at the sites, and found that even deer were consuming the young chicks! Quail can be reared in pens, and released, so instead of spending millions to figure out what the problem is, let’s start hatching operations. Maybe this will work with Grouse as well! Twenty years ago in Virginia we still had farms with decent Quail populations, until the crops were cut, and then the hawks came in! You could walk around the barren fields devoid of any cover, and see the Quail feathers and bones littering the edges of the fields, where they attempted to come out and feed, and were killed by the hawks! Everything eats their eggs as well, from raccoons to crows! That is the problem!

  • At one time sportsmen were expected to kill at least a few predators, winged or otherwise, every year. Remove their protection, and do what’s right.

  • Northeast Ohio where I live and used to grouse hunt has been completely void of grouse for over 20 years. The reason? Turkeys! Many of my old grouse hunting friends concur that the turkey has cleaned them out and that when the turkey tracks showed up, the grouse tracks stopped.
    An old farm boy said the turkeys on his farm would GO INTO THE HEN HOUSE and peck the eggs and eat the chicks. Ohio has a deer tag and turkey tag but no grouse tag, so they don’t care for game that doesn’t give them money.

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