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Conserving Gunnison sage-grouse through captive-rearing
Conserving Gunnison sage-grouse through captive-rearing

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Led By

Anthony​ D. Apa​ and Lief Wiechman (CSU Research Associate)

Study Area

Trapping and monitoring occurred in  the Gunnison Basin (Gunnison County) and captive-rearing and captive-breeding occurred in Fort Collins, Colorado (Larimer County).​

Project Status​​


Research Objectives

  • Evaluate and establish egg incubation and hatching husbandry protocol. 

  • Evaluate and establish captive juvenile and adult husbandry protocol.

  • Develop recommendations for potential captive-breeding programs if used as a technique to conserve Gunnison sage-grouse.

Project Description

The Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus; GUSG) is a recently described species with a distribution in North America that has decreased over the past century concomitantly with a reduction in sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) distribution. The Gunnison sage-grouse is designated as a species of concern by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). In 2014, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule listing the GUSG as threatened. Seven GUSG populations occupy southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Six populations are small (<40 males counted on strutting grounds). The seventh population inhabits the Gunnison Basin (745-850 males counted on strutting grounds). Even though the Gunnison Basin population is relatively stable, the persistence and viability of the smaller populations are in tenuous. 

Conservation translocations with grouse (primarily with GRSG) have yielded mixed results. Since 2000, CPW has conducted translocations of GUSG to the smaller populations. Traditional conservation translocations approaches are usually not sufficient conservation measures to support species like GUSG. Conservation practitioners need to consider additional conservation options to initiate proactive conservation efforts including captive-rearing.  

Captive-rearing programs have encountered varying challenges. Previous captive-rearing studies have documented mortality from bacterial or fungal infections, vitamin E deficiency, and reticuloendothelial virus. Post-hatch physical irregularities have also been documented. These irregularities may result from a combination of the incubation environment, inadequate nutrition, poor thermoregulation and/or stress from handling. Captive-rearing as a conservation practice has been the subject of many discussions. In an effort to be proactive we provide conservation practitioners better tools to assist in GUSG recovery.​

Associated Publications

Apa, A.D. and L. A. Wiechman. 2015. Captive-rearing of Gunnison sage-grouse from egg collection to adulthood to foster proactive conservation and recovery of a conservation-reliant species. Zoo Biology 34:438-452.

Apa, A.D. and L. A. Wiechman. 2016. Captive-breeding of captive and wild-reared Gunnison sage-grouse. Zoo Biology 35:70-75.​​​​