CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said Monday it is asking people to report dead sage grouse to help the department’s efforts to monitor for West Nile virus.
There are no signs of a West Nile virus outbreak in the state. Each year, Game and Fish asks people to report dead sage grouse to monitor for the disease, which can be deadly to birds.
“We haven’t had an outbreak of West Nile in sage grouse since 2003 in northeast Wyoming,” Nyssa Whitford, sage grouse and sagebrush biologist with Game and Fish, said, “but monitoring for the disease is still important.”
West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes, and research has indicated sage grouse have a low resistance to the disease, according to Game and Fish.
People don’t need to report sage grouse that are obvious road kills, but Game and Fish is asking that birds found dead that weren’t obviously killed by vehicles be reported.
“We are particularly interested in sage grouse found in remote areas that have no obvious injuries that might have resulted in their death,” Whitford said. “These may occur near water holes or hay fields on private lands.”
People observing dead sage grouse are encouraged to report that information promptly so the carcasses don’t deteriorate past a point of being viable for testing.
If people are willing to collect carcasses to submit to Game and Fish, the department said people should wear gloves and pick up the birds with an inverted plastic sack. The carcass and the plastic sack should be placed into another plastic bag, preferably a trash bag, the department said. People can then bring the bag to a Game and Fish Regional Office for testing.
If carcasses can’t be delivered quickly, Game and Fish said they should be frozen.
The risk of getting West Nile from handling a dead bird is low, but Game and Fish still recommends people wear gloves and take other safety precautions.
People can also help reduce the risk of West Nile virus by getting rid of standing water in things like flowerpots, discarded tires, plastic swimming pools and wheelbarrows, Game and Fish said. Mosquitoes tend to breed in standing water.
While spring 2022 started out wet, the summer in Wyoming has been drier and less favorable for mosquitoes, according to Whitford.