The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking everyone, especially landowners, to report dead sage-grouse so the birds can be tested for West Nile virus.
While there are no signs of an outbreak, Game and Fish asks the public annually for reports to help in the management of the state’s sage-grouse populations.
West Nile virus is spread through mosquitos. Research has shown that sage grouse have a low resistance to the virus, which is typically fatal to the birds.
Evidence of the disease has been reported in recent years in northeast Wyoming and the surrounding areas.
Game and Fish biologist, Nyssa Whitford said that the continuous rainfall we have had this year has contributed to an increase in standing water and mosquito populations.
“We haven’t had an outbreak of West Nile in sage-grouse since 2003 in northeast Wyoming. But monitoring for the disease is still important,” Whitford said.
The Game and Fish monitors the scope and impact of the disease by testing dead birds.
“We are particularly interested in sage-grouse found in remote areas that have no obvious injuries that might have resulted in their death. These may occur near water holes or hay fields on private lands,” Whitford said.
Obvious roadkill should not be reported, said Whitford. She also emphasized to report dead birds to local Game and Fish officials quickly, so they can be tested before they deteriorate.
If individuals are interested in collecting the carcasses that they find, the likelihood of contracting West Nile virus from a carcass is rare.
If picking up the birds, it is recommended to do so with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves. Bagged carcasses can then be placed inside another plastic sack, like a garbage bag, tied and taken to a local Game and Fish official.
If the carcass cannot be delivered soon, the bird should be frozen.
People can help reduce mosquitos and West Nile virus by eliminating standing water in smaller receptacles, such as flower pots, plastic swimming pools, and wheelbarrows. Essentially, any where mosquitos tend to breed.
Mosquitos lay their eggs in standing water areas and it only takes five to seven days to complete a mosquitos life cycle.