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Multi-state study looks at causes of ruffed grouse declines

A ruffed grouse, or partridge, in winter. (Photo: CT DEEP)

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Biologists are hoping a multi-state research program will help them determine if West Nile virus could be responsible for a decline in the population of ruffed grouse across the Northeast and other parts of the country.

In Vermont, hunters are being asked to help collect blood and feather samples from the birds they take this season and submit them to the state so they can be tested for the mosquito-borne illness.

Vermont officials say the virus is considered to be a significant contributor to population declines in Pennsylvania.

Ruffed grouse, sometimes called partridge, are a ground-dwelling game bird. They can be found in 38 states, including Connecticut, and 10 Canadian provinces, according to the Fish and Game Department in New Hampshire, where they are the most sought-after small-game species for hunters.

In Connecticut, the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has ongoing research on the birds’ population, not related to the West Nile study. DEEP’s Wildlife Division asks the public for ruffed grouse sighting, and grouse wings or tails from hunter-harvested or road-killed birds. The wings and tails are used to determine the age and sex of grouse, and assist in assessing productivity and harvest composition.

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