Wyoming’s industrious animal husbanders – who raise everything from cattle to pigs to yaks – will soon have yet another creature to cultivate. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is now formulating rules for sage grouse farming.
It all began with State Senator Kit Jennings, R-Casper, who initially proposed a $50,000 pilot program for farming the birds. When that didn’t fly, he attached a tagline to a Game and Fish Department appropriations bill stating that the Game and Fish Commission should come up with rules allowing farmers to raise sage grouse for release.
"We do raise different kinds of sport animals -- we raise a lot of fish, we raise a lot of pheasants -- and I really have a hard time understanding why we can't raise a couple of sage grouse and take them out there and let some guys hunt them," he told the Casper Star-Tribune.
But the commission wasn’t too keen on the idea. The sage grouse – which is constantly under consideration for an endangered species listing – has never been raised in captivity in Wyoming and only with limited success elsewhere, partly because of its space needs and unusual mating habits. Some opponents worry that captive birds could spread disease to wild ones, and that bird farmers could harm the species by gathering eggs from the wild, hastening its already steep decline.
The commission appealed to the state’s Attorney General to see if it could ignore the legislation forcing it to condone sage grouse farming, but no such luck.