The public delivered 16 sick or dying ruffed grouse to the Department of Natural Resources to be tested for West Nile Virus (WNV) last fall.
This was many more than the total birds the public brought in during the entirety of the past 15 years.
This 16-bird sample (2018) is aside from the 238 birds hunters collected during the fall 2018 hunting season. None of those test results (from hunter birds) have come back from a laboratory in Georgia. Those results are not likely to be available until mid-summer 2019.
Three of the 16 birds sent in by the public tested positive for WNV but Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, said that sample were too small to draw any conclusions about the prevalence of WNV in the population.
“We’ll wait until the larger sample (238 grouse) comes back from Georgia before commenting on the overall results,” Witecha said.
The 16-bird sample of dead and sick birds was primarily from the Northern Wisconsin grouse range. The distribution of the larger, hunter sample has not been mapped yet, either, but likely most birds came from northern Wisconsin, too.
Minnesota and Michigan hunters also collected and submitted birds to their state agencies this past fall.
There are several viruses similar to WNV so some samples may have to be retested to make sure which virus is present, and in what proportion.
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One of those similar viruses is Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) which was present in five of the sixteen birds brought in by the public. Two of the birds tested positive for both viruses.
Hunter-collected birds will be requested again in 2019 and 2020.
Hunters and the general public are encouraged to submit carcasses for disease testing to any local DNR Wildlife Management person.
EEEV and WNV are both mosquito-borne viruses, which can affect humans, horses, and some birds species, including ruffed grouse.
Ruffed grouse are a short-lived species, with only 30 percent of the adult population surviving year-to-year.
DNR staff are working with partners (Ruffed Grouse Society and
others) to continue developing management strategies.