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Individual Highlight

Greater Sage-grouse Demographics Prior to Wind Energy Development

Photo of Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) with VHF transmitter. Carbon County, WY. Brian Dickerson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) with VHF transmitter. Carbon County, WY. Brian Dickerson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Wind energy is an alternative form of energy production that is generally accepted by the public as an answer to nonrenewable forms of energy production such as oil and gas development. Wyoming is a major exporter of energy resources and has recently been considered for a 1,000-turbine wind energy facility. Much of the wind energy development sites are within areas designated by Wyoming Game and Fish as core sage-grouse habitat.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Dickerson, Brian E.  
Research Location : Carbon County, Wyo.
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 991


From 2011-2013 researchers gathered baseline data on greater sage-grouse in Carbon County, Wyoming, where a proposed 1,000 turbine wind energy facility would be constructed. The studies are being designed as a “Before-After-Control-Impact” setup where researchers can use baseline data and compare it to data gathered after an impact to determine the effects on a given population. Forest Service researchers recorded greater sage-grouse nest productivity and chick survival information as these demographics influence the growth rate of sage-grouse population size. In this study, the researchers captured sage-grouse using spotlighting techniques at night and outfitted females with Global Positioning System transmitters, which delivered positions of nesting females up to eight times a day. The crew then located the female sage-grouse and collected nest and chick baseline data. Male detectability on leks (sage-grouse breeding areas) were also examined to evaluate which conditions affect lek counts, estimate male abundance using estimated detection probabilities, and determine optimal conditions for lek counts. This study used transmitters on male sage-grouse to determine detectability differences by using a two observer setup whereas one observer could use equipment to locate tagged birds, and the other observer used standard Wyoming Game and Fish protocols for lek surveys.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Mark A. Rumble, Principal Investigator at time of publication, retired RMRS Research Wildlife Biologist
  • Josh Millspaugh, Principal Investigator, University of Missouri
  • R. Scott Gamo. Wyoming Game and Fish