Non-native bird ruffles feathers

  • Does Colorado need this bird?

    Jim Rathert, Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Conservationists clipped the wings of a controversial plan to introduce a non-native game bird into southwestern Colorado.

Although the state Division of Wildlife hoped to release 40 ruffed grouse in the San Juan-Rio Grande National Forest in April, four environmental groups and two individuals sued the Forest Service to stop the transplant. The day after the suit was filed, Forest Supervisor James Webb yanked approval for the release.

Brett Gosney, of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the birds might move into nearby wilderness areas and "could have been a disaster biologically." In the lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Denver March 27, environmentalists said the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not studying the possible impacts of bringing in the birds, which are popular with hunters. The male bird is known for its crescendo of wing beats called "drumming" that occurs during the spring mating season.

Gosney charged that the Ruffed Grouse Society, a 28,000-member group headquartered in Coraopolis, Pa., bird-dogged the state Wildlife Commission, appointed by the governor, into approving the transplant.

"This affluent Eastern group of bird hunters is dictating public-land policy in the West. That's ugly," Gosney said.

Mike Wynn, president of the society's Colorado chapter, said he took umbrage at the charge: "I live in Colorado; I don't live in Pennsylvania."

Why did the Wildlife Commission push for bringing an exotic bird onto a national forest? Commission chairman Arnold Salazar said, "We're trying to create as much diversity in our wildlife as possible and as much hunting opportunity for our constituents."

Internal documents from both the state wildlife commission and Forest Service show that the issue has been debated since the early 1970s, with opinions changing through the decades. Then in 1993, the Forest Service's regional office in Denver concluded that bringing in the birds would not adversely affect the environment or violate agency policies, because it was a state action.

On the ground, however, staffers at the San Juan National Forest questioned the project. Some argued that spending wildlife dollars on "ruffies" while native grouse, such as the sharptailed, declined, misused scarce funds. Bringing in the grouse in two transplants would have cost about $25,000.

Rio Grande Forest Supervisor Webb is not a fan of the state's plan. "Bringing in ruffed grouse is kind of silly," he said. "It's about as low on the priority list as anything I've ever seen."

Mark Pearson, a Sierra Club staffer in Durango, said, "It would be nice if the Forest Service acquired the backbone to stand up to state wildlife agencies and do what's right from an ecosystem point of view. They could have made a case like we did."

State wildlife commissioners say they still have every intention of transplanting ruffed grouse to the national forest; their next release date is Aug. 15.

David Hatcher writes in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the lawsuit, contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 303/297-1192, San Juan Forest Supervisor Jim Webb, 719/852-5941, or Brett Gosney of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, 970/382-1383.

jim kelley
jim kelley
Apr 07, 2014 11:04 AM
i am resident of pa and ruff grouse hunter for about 50 years now.
ruff grouse is by far in our opinion the most prized bird here in northeast.
hunters come from other states to hunt the ruff grouse.
it brings in millions of dollars to state and motels and restaurants etc.

pheasant here cant even come close to this bird.
it is PRIZED bird to hunt and your diehard birdhunters ONLY hunt this bird as its most elusive bird to hunt for man and his companion dog.
heck some of best novels are written by dedicated ruff grouse hunters here in pa and are great reading.
here in pa you can hunt a few months and train year round on ruff grouse.
its great fun.
it brings in money folks from hunters from other states bigtime.
TRUST ME, there is no wild bird that is even close to ruff grouse as master of birds in woods.
give them right habitat,reduce number of copper hawks and owls as they are killers of any wild birds and you will see a great bird live to be enjoyed by many,hunters and non hunters.

if you want more hunters and bird watchers to come to your state,GET RUFF GROUSE PROGRAM GOING NOW.

jim kelley
Roger Rouch
Roger Rouch
Apr 07, 2014 03:28 PM
I am not sure how far an analogy with Ring-necked Pheasants might go, but they are not native to anywhere near as close as Pennsylvania. No doubt the state spends money to study and maintain their populations and in return generates income in license fees and for the communities where its hunting is popular. It seems like wildlife management has a history of introducing non-native species only to have them become invasive and compete with native species. Some of these introductions seem to be economically desirable and benign, but I can see a strong case for enhancing existing native populations of grouse, rather than increasing species diversity, both from an economic standpoint as well as an environment one.
jim kelley
jim kelley
Apr 15, 2014 09:34 AM
the ruff grouse eats wild native foods where most pheasants you have to feed them.
ruff grouse is not wild bird that is problem to other birds.
cooper hawks and owls are a problem to ruff grouse as they kill eggs, peeps and ruff grouse .
those birds are ones that should be reduced bigtime.
they are masters at killing and they will put a big hurt on any program that is started unless there numbers are reduced very low.

its not NATURE to have these predators that kill daily over and over.
this is problem in pa that pgc does not seem to want to take on because of money from bird watcher folks.
i wish birdwatcher folks could come with me and see all killing that these 2 predators do in my area of pa.
they cleaned out almost all my rabbits around my home and now are killing squirreals and other birds like bluejays etc.

friends we have got to do something about these 2 birds and HABITAT alone will not save your birds.