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Sharp-tailed grouse translocation, restoration within the Lake Superior watershed

May 15, 2019

A sharp-tailed grouse standing outside 1 of 2 cature boxes with USDA Forest Service logos stamped on them
Minnesota-captured sharp-tailed grouse released at the Moquah Barrens, Wisconsin. USDA Forest Service photo.

WISCONSIN – Scientists wanted to restore and provide a genetic boost to the population of sharp-tailed grouse in the Moquah Barrens of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest  in northern Wisconsin. As a result, 160 sharp-tailed grouse were moved from northwest Minnesota over a three-year period between 2016 and 2018. This relocation effort is called “translocation” in biology terms because it moves genetic material from one location to another.

Sharp-tailed grouse are native to Wisconsin and historically occupied a large portion of the state, using primarily, young, open pine and oak barrens or savanna ecosystems like the Moquah Barrens. Additionally, sharp-tailed grouse will use other open lands such as grasslands and agricultural fields. Aagask, Ojibwe for sharp-tailed grouse, are nicknamed the “firebird” since they are a species that relies on large scale disturbance events, like fire, to renew and maintain their habitat. These disturbance events create the large open blocks of habitat they need to survive. The Moquah Barrens Management Area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Washburn Ranger District is the most northern pine barrens within the Northwest Sands Ecological Corridor stretching from Bayfield County to Burnett County in northwestern Wisconsin. Roughly one percent of the original 2.3 million acres of Wisconsin savanna and pine barrens communities remain today. Management of the Moquah Barrens for sharp-tailed grouse has been ongoing since the early 1950’s with habitat management and restoration work, including prescribed fire, occurring at varying degrees and intensities since roughly that time as well. 

The translocation, on-going monitoring, and landscape restoration were made possible by funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Lake Superior Landscape Restoration Partnership. Partners include the Natural Resources departments of Wisconsin and Minnesota, Bad River and Red Cliff bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, Wisconsin and Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Societies, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and numerous volunteers. More on this project can be found on Chequamegon-Nicolet Nation Forest website.