Locals invited to witness sage grouse strut


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Dylan Woolf Harris, Elko Daily Free Press
Elko, NV - March 20, 2014

What’s all the hubbub about sage grouse? What makes the chicken-sized fowl so unique? Why is anyone paying them any attention? In short: the strut.

Actually, sage grouse are under review for a potential 2015 inclusion to the endangered species list. Sage-grouse terminology has entered into the lexicon of local and state politicians. And various plans offered to stave off a listing have been given generous media coverage. But a local area working group wants residents to witness the birds sitting at the heart of the controversy, and see their oddly fascinating behavior.

The Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group is hosting the Elko County Sage Grouse Experience, which will be centered around an early-morning viewing of a sage-grouse dance. “That’s probably the premier site of the American West is watching sage grouse strut,” said Larry Hyslop, president of the stewardship group. “… To familiarize people with sage grouse that’ve been in the news lately, people can watch them strutting — which is fantastic.”

During mating season, male sage grouse flap their wings, kick their feet and puff out two large air sacs on their chest to attract females, usually in an open area called a lek. “And that sound they make,” Hyslop said, “that’s always what impresses people.”

The group will set up spotting scopes. Attendees can bring binoculars if they want and are encouraged to wear warm clothes. A restroom will be on site. After viewing the lek, brunch will be provided by the Ruby Valley 4-H Club at the LDS church. Speakers will talk about sage grouse, conservation and field questions.
Organizers intend to focus on the birds’ unique biology and ecology. “We aren’t going to get into the politics,” Hyslop said. A “Sage-Grouse Experience” T-shirt will be given to attendees. The experience is 4:30 - 10 a.m. April 19. To register or get information, email collordhome@gmail.com or call 738-7291. Space is limited. Those interested are asked to register by April 11.

Newmont Mining Corp., Barrick Gold of North America, Noble Energy Inc., the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension are sponsoring the event. The stewardship group is a nonprofit whose goal is to address issues with open and honest dialogue. “We believe strongly in collaboration,” Hyslop said. For information, visit nnsg.org.