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Ruffed Grouse Research Project
West Virginia is involved in the Appalachian Cooperative Grouse Research Project. This multi-agency, multi-state research effort is investigating the population dynamics and habitat use of ruffed grouse in the central Appalachian region. There are 15 study areas distributed throughout the eight states with 2 in West Virginia. One is located in Randolph County at Adolph, and the other in Greenbrier County just north of White Sulphur Springs.
Objectives of this study are to radio-equip and maintain 40 birds on each area, and to monitor these birds twice each week. Data was collected on mortality, when it occurs and the causes, the types of habitats selected by grouse in each season, the nest and brood production as well as chick survival, and the impacts of hunting on grouse populations. Across the 10 study areas 1,200 grouse have been radioed and monitored.
To date grouse mortality has been attributed to mainly avian predation with mammal predation in second place. Hunting has been a small part of the predation picture averaging about 15% of the total. However, production has also been low in this region with only about 1 chick per adult reaching maturity. This low production tends to hold grouse populations at low levels, resulting in a greater impact of mortality on the population.
Graduate studies will be examining the survival of chicks in hopes of answering the question of why production is not as high as it should be. Studies are also planned to examine the dispersal patterns of ruffed grouse in the fall. Both of these studies will be conducted at West Virginia University.
By the time the research is completed the study should give researchers an idea of overall population trends, and shed some light on survival, mortality, productivity, and home range. This information will allow biologists to better manage grouse populations in West Virginia.
Where Have All The Ruffed Grouse Gone?
Ruffed Grouse Ecology and Management in the Appalachian Region (11 MB PDF)
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