Friday, March 25, 2011

See Sage Grouse with free Trips

A male sage-grouse performs his strutting ritual.
Photo by Ron Stewart, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Price -- The “bloop, bloop” sound that male sage-grouse make, as they strut on their breeding grounds, is one of the most unique sounds you’ll ever hear in nature. And the sight of the grouse strutting is pretty unique too!

You can hear and watch this ritual yourself at a free wildlife-viewing event in east-central Utah. The event will happen April 9 at Emma Park, about 13 miles north of Price. The Division of Wildlife Resources is sponsoring the event.

To see and hear the spectacle, you need to be at the viewing site early. Viewing is best before the sun comes up and just after the sun has risen. Grouse leave their strutting ground within an hour after sun up.

Before making the trip, please remember that several things can force the grouse to leave the viewing site early or to not visit the site at all. Those factors include eagles or coyotes near the site. Wind, rain or snow can also keep the grouse under cover and out of sight.

After the birds leave their breeding ground, the grouse spend the day feeding and resting in stands of sagebrush. They remain mostly out-of-sight until the following morning at first light, when they congregate at their strutting ground again.

DWR biologists will be on hand with spotting scopes and binoculars.  They’ll help you find the grouse and answer any questions you have.

- From the Wasatch Front, travel east on U.S. Highway 6 from Spanish Fork. At the top of Price Canyon, look for the Emma Park sign, and turn left onto the Emma Park Road. Travel east until you see vehicles with the state of Utah seal on their doors.

- To get to Emma Park from Price, travel north on U.S. Highway 6 to the

Castle Gate power plant. Turn right onto U.S. Highway 191, and travel northeast about six miles to the Bamberger Monument. From there, turn left onto the Emma Park Road, and travel west until you see the state vehicles.

For more information, call Brent Stettler at (435) 613-3707 or (435) 636-6731.

See Rare Gunnison Sage Grouse
If watching the colorful strutting display of Gunnison sage-grouse sounds interesting, state wildlife biologists have an offer for you that might be hard to refuse.

During the weekends of April 1 - 2 and April 15 - 16, they’ll take small groups of people to see Gunnison sage-grouse strut on leks (breeding grounds) west of Monticello.

Utah is home to two sage-grouse subspecies -- the greater sage-grouse and the Gunnison sage-grouse. Gunnison sage-grouse are the rarest of the two.

To avoid disturbing the grouse, each weekend trip is limited to no more than 15 people. There’s no cost to see the grouse, but you will have to pay for lodging, food and gasoline to get to Monticello. Monticello is about a five-hour drive southeast of Salt Lake City.

If you’d like to attend one of the trips, call Brent Stettler at (435) 613-3707. Each trip is limited to the first 15 people who call.

On the Friday evening of each weekend -- April 1 and April 15 -- an orientation will be held at the commission chambers at the San Juan County Building, 117 S. Main in Monticello.

The orientations begin at 7 p.m. They’ll include presentations by graduate students from Utah State University and a wildlife biologist from the Division of Wildlife Resources. You’ll learn about the ecology, life history, geographic distribution and legal status of Gunnison sage-grouse. You’ll also receive information about where and when to meet the following morning.

The best viewing always occurs before dawn or right at dawn. Within an hour after sunrise, grouse are usually done strutting.

Please prepare for winter-like conditions. You’ll want to bring a camera and a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. (The DWR biologist will also have extra binoculars and spotting scopes you can use.)

To lessen the chance of disturbing the birds, you’ll be encouraged to carpool to the strutting ground with other participants. Each trip will take about two hours. For more information, call Stettler at (435) 613-3707.