December 2019: Update
This is a good time to summarize what has happened and is happening for Greater Sage-Grouse issues(GSG) in 2019 and into 2020.
In late October ECAS assisted the Deschutes NF with the planting of native-to- site big sagebrush in part of the Tepee Fire. This wildfire burned on the east side of the DNF in August of 2018. As you know, sagebrush is critical for GSG and sage does not survive fires. It takes over 25 years for sagebrush to recover if sage recovery is unassisted. Therefore, a burned area is lost as GSG habitat for that period of time if it is not helped to recover. The sagebrush seedlings were grown in a USFS nursery in Oregon from seed collected at the site. ECAS had a dozen helpers on site. It was fun for all and we will do more plantings there in Nov of 2020. Volunteers needed!
The Prineville BLM is starting up a Local Implementation Team (LIT) to decide what measures should be considered to help recover our local GSG populations on public and private lands. ECAS will be represented by 3 or 4 members and all meetings are open to the public as observers.
ECAS will be encouraging the LIT to begin sage-steppe restoration projects in and near the Brothers Priority Area for Conservation (PAC) by methods other than those already underway. We will particularly be interested in looking at West Nile Virus threats, the BLM Playa Project, and at restoration of the depleted wildflower/forb understory conditions that are common in the Brothers PAC.
ECAS is beginning discussions for a possible GSG video partnering with the National Audubon Society to educate viewers on the challenges faced by our local grouse. I will keep you informed.
For three years ECAS has been monitoring vegetation conditions in the PAC in 13 scattered transects. We will continue to gather this important ecological information. Our studies indicate that areas that have been mowed and burned show significant increases in the forb/wildflower understory cover. This forb and insect understory are essential in providing insect and plant food for GSG chicks in the first 6 weeks of their lives. Volunteers are needed!
ECAS has formed an informal Sage-grouse Science Advisory Board of six ECAS member-volunteers with academic and political experience in GSG issues. The Science Board will propose and review items that ECAs proposes to agencies to help our local GSG.
The federal appropriations bill that passed in late Dec, 2019 included a rider that prohibited the USFWS from considering the GSG for listing under the Endangered Species Act. This means that the 2020 review for listing GSG under the ESA as promised in the 2015 negotiations will not take place.
ECAS will continue to assist federal and state agencies with fence issues, road issues, stock tank ramps, and other projects as requested.
Thanks to all who remain interested in the fate of the Greater Sage-Grouse. If you wish to be removed from this notification list for GSG issues please let me know by return email.
Respectfully Submitted, Stu Garrett< MD
ECAS GSG Coordinator
ECAS has received the final lab report from the OSU Vet Lab and there were no West Nile viruses found in our mosquitos.
That is good for our birds, but it is suspected that the WN virus is intermittent in our area.
Thanks again to those 13 ECASers who did such a good job of trapping mosquitos!!
Note below that WNV was found farther east in Oregon this year.
We had a successful conifer removal work party with the Deschutes NF in Sept and also helped BLM out with guzzlers that same month.
I also attached a few of the interesting game camera photos from guzzlers in our trapping area. Life is dangerous for a grouse out there!
I will be attending the annual SAGECON meeting in Ontario this month where state and federal agencies and cooperators discuss the status of the grouse and plans for next year.
ECAS is also continuing discussion with federal agencies about possible restoration projects in the Brothers PAC. I will keep you informed.
ECAS Grouse Coordinator
The Lek cam that has been maintained by the USFWS will not be active this year, 2020, due to the Covid 19 outbreak. They hope to have it available next year.
Guidelines for Viewing Greater Sage‐grouse Leks in Central Oregon
These guidelines were developed specifically for the Central Oregon sage‐grouse population and are much more conservative than one might find for more robust sage‐grouse populations.
When to Visit:
The first two weeks of May tend to be the least impactful time to visit sage‐grouse leks in Central Oregon. Not only has most breeding been completed, weather tends to be better for viewing during early May and many males still remain very active at lek sites. March 15‐April 30 is peak breeding, we recommend you not visit prior to or during this time.
In order to avoid resource damage, postpone viewing if roads are muddy.
Do not visit near a full moon as birds sometimes display all night due to the additional light.
Arrive at the lek at least one hour before sunrise. Arriving late will likely disturb birds.
If you have multiple people visiting the lek, please carpool, limit the number of vehicles visible from the lek.
Stop more than one mile away from lek, empty bladders, organize gloves, cameras, binoculars, and clothing.
Don’t get out of your vehicle, use it as a blind. Lower windows and turn off cell phones, radios, etc. Then proceed to your viewing location.
Talk in whispers or low voices. Turn off vehicle lights and engine. Do not turn on engine to warm up. Come dressed warmly.
Leave pets at home.
Do not make loud noises or sudden movements, including opening and shutting vehicle doors
and trunk lids. Since you are not getting out of your vehicle these should not be an issue.
Watch the lek from as far away as possible, and at least 100 yards from the edge of lek. The further you are from the lek the less likely it will be disturbed by your visit.
Use binoculars and spotting scopes to watch birds from your vehicle.
Do not leave until birds leave. Sometimes this can be several hours after sunrise, so be prepared.
Never use electronic playback of calls.
Do not use photo flashes, artificial lights, or flashlights. Arrive with car lights off or only running/parking lights if needed.
No camping or off‐road vehicle use near a lek.
Report any and all wildlife disturbance or harassment to ODFW at 541‐388‐6363, or Oregon State Police Game Division at 541‐617‐0617.
Do not trespass on private lands.
Behavioral cues that indicate you are disturbing grouse include: males stop displaying, birds flushing from lek, crouching down, or looking at you.
Understand that even though males keep displaying, it DOES NOT justify moving closer.
Uninterrupted display behavior is closely linked to successful breeding and a future brood of chicks.
Do not report or post the location of any lek via the internet or to any electronic site or online birding sites (e.g. ebird.com) without agency or owner agreement.
Do not post photos that indicate the GPS location of a lek in metadata.
Always practice ethical and responsible wildlife viewing (see American Birding Association site: and only from designated distances or established viewing areas. Other viewing opportunities:
A lek camera will be up and running, visit this link for updates. https://explore.org/livecams/zen-den/sage-grouse-lek-cam
These guidelines were developed collaboratively by East Cascades Audubon Society, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Prineville District of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sage-grouse Fun Facts
Most sage-grouse live 3 to 6 years, with the record being 9 years of age.
The sage-grouse has one of the lowest reproductive rates of any North American gamebird, partially due to the small clutch size of 6 to 7 eggs and low re-nesting rates.
The sage-grouse requires a large area of sage-brush habitat and lots of grasses and forbs for their nesting and brood-rearing habitat.
Some grouse populations have been recorded as traveling seasonally as far as 100 miles. The reasons for migration are not known but tradition and habitat likely play a role.
After a fire it can take from 25 to 75 years sage-brush to recover.
A male sage-grouse can mate with multiple females, but females have been known to mate with multiple males!