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Conserving Gunnison Sage-grouse through Captive-rearing
Conserving Gunnison Sage-grouse through Captive-rearing

​​​​​​​​​Led By

Anthony Apa​ Ph.D, Michael Phillips Ph.D, & Lief Wiechman

Study Area

Trapping and monitoring occurred in the Gunnison Basin and captive-rearing occurred in Fort Collins, Colo.

Project Status

Completed

Research Objectives

  • To evaluate various techniques for incubating and hatching eggs and maintaining juvenile and adult Gunnison sage-grouse in captivity.
  • To develop recommendations for possible captive breeding programs if used as a technique for conserving Gunnison sage-grouse.

Project Description

Seven Gunnison sage-grouse (GUSG) populations currently inhabit areas of Utah and Colorado. Six of these populations are relatively small and have limited genetic diversity.
Transplanting mature and first-year juvenile GUSG to supplement these smaller populations is currently the only available augmentation technique for managers and additional tools are needed. Five alternatives explored in ​the Gunnison Sage Grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan involve some form of captive rearing. For example, grouse could be raised in captivity and released into the wild as neede​d.
CPW researchers initiated this project to evaluate various techniques for incubating and hatching eggs and maintaining juvenile and adult Gunnison sage-grouse in captivity.

During the course of this study, researchers

  • Collected eggs from captive and wild-reared females;
  • Artificially incubated and hatched eggs;
  • Developed captive breeding husbandry techniques for GUSG of all ages;
  • Determined if GUSG would incubate eggs and rear chicks in captivity; and
  • Augmented wild surrogate females with captive-reared chicks at ​various ages.

Results from this study revealed that captive-reared and wild grouse brought into captivity will breed and produce viable eggs. Researchers also found that females, with limited success, will nest and successfully raise chicks in captivity.

As a result of this study, CPW became the first agency to develop basic husbandry protocol for captive rearing of Gunnison sage-grouse if captive-​rearing programs are needed to improve the productivity and sustainability of Colorado's GUSG populations. ​

Associated Publications

Apa, A. D., L. A. Wiechman, and M. L. Phillips. In Review. Captive-rearing of Gunnison sage-grouse from egg collection to hatch to foster proactive conservation and recovery of a conservation-reliant species. Zoo Biology. ​

Apa, A. D., L. A. Wiechman, and M. L. Phillips. In Review.  Captive-rearing of juvenile and adult Gunnison sage-grouse to foster proactive conservation and recovery of a conservation-reliant species. Zoo Biology.