Monday, March 14, 2016

2016 Waunita Watchable Wildlife Program: Gunnison Sage-grouse

Greetings to all from Gunnison, Colorado. Gunnison-sage viewing at the Waunita public wildlife viewing area will begin on Friday, April 1, 2016. Over the past several years the sage-grouse at Wauntia have moved off of the traditional lekking area and are located much farther away with more obstructions in between the viewing location and the birds. After a continuation of this pattern in 2015, the decision was made to have two non-viewing days a week (total of 5 days of viewing per week) in 2016 to minimize further human disturbance to the grouse. The public viewing site will be closed on April 4, 5, 18, 23, 26, 27, and May 5, 6, 10, 11. We are asking viewers to refrain from going to the site on these dates.  In addition, Gunnison County has installed no parking signs that prohibit parking along the county road adjacent to the watchable wildlife site (CR 887). The Gunnison county sheriff's office has agreed to patrol the site and enforce the no parking policy. As ethical wildlife viewers, it is our duty to be aware of our impacts on the grouse and do our best to ensure that we are not impeding on the reproduction of this species. Please see the website for specific details on viewing protocols.

I recommend having a spotting scope for optimal viewing at Waunita. On average, grouse are 600 - 800 m away and may be in three locations. Main lek is the traditional lekking area located in the pasture perpendicular to the viewing area. East Ridge is located beyond the the Main lek directly east of the viewing area. Grouse are often silhouetted against the sky at the top of the ridge. You will also find several lekking areas across the East ridge by scanning from south to north. The North Meadow can be seen from the viewing area by locating the willow thickets that begin just north of the viewing area. The birds can be seen in the strips of pasture in-between the willow trees and beyond the trees toward a farm house further north.

Thank you for your consideration of our 15 year effort to protect one of North America's rarest birds. Please feel free to contact Sisk-a-dee at 970-641-3959 if you would like to discuss the issue or have questions about your visit.

Dan Schneider
Waunita Watchable Wildlife Program Coordinator