by Michelle Cowardin CPW WIildlife Biologist
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) completed the release of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse to the Williams Fork area in April. This release was conducted to enhance a transplant that took place during 2006 thru 2008 in the Blue River corridor south of Kremmling. Columbian sharp-tailed grouse were historically found in Grand and Summit Counties but were extirpated from the area some time during the early to mid 1900’s. In fact, the first noted sighting of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in present day Colorado occurred in 1839 near the mouth of the Blue River in Grand County. In September 2014, CPW trapped 40 male sharp-tailed grouse from lek sites (breeding grounds) located on Trapper Mine property near Oak Creek. These birds were transported and released in the Williams Fork drainage south of Parshall. Twenty of the males were fitted with VHF radio-collars. The radio-collared males were tracked throughout the winter and in the spring CPW located strutting sites established by the transplanted birds. It was important to locate the lek sites established by the males because this is where CPW would release the translocated hens. This past April, CPW trapped 45 females and 17 males on Colowyo Mine property south of Craig and released them at one of the Williams Fork sharp-tailed grouse lek sites. Twenty of the released hens were fitted with VHF radio-collars. These females will be tracked throughout the summer to determine hen survival, and nesting and chick success. There are no additional Columbian sharp-tailed grouse transplants planned for Middle Park. The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is not currently a hunted species in Grand or Summit Counties. Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are smaller in size than the other grouse found in Middle Park. Sharp-tailed grouse weigh about 1.9 lbs, whereas dusky (Blue) grouse weigh about 2.3 lbs and greater-sage grouse weigh between 3.3 lbs for females and 6.3 lbs for males. Sharp-tailed grouse are a generalist when it comes to habitat use. In the winter they will be found in serviceberry, willow, juniper and aspen stands where they feed on the tree buds and fruits. In the spring they move into sage-brush and grassland habitats foraging on insects, fruits, grasses and forbs into the fall. CPW would like to thank Trapper and Colowyo mines for providing access for trapping. In addition, CPW would like to give a big thank you to all the west Grand landowners that have granted us property access to radio-track the released sharptailed grouse. If you have questions please contact Michelle Cowardin at the CPW Hot Sulphur Springs office at 970-725-6212.