Once plentiful, the greater sage-grouse have declined so much that they were designated as endangered in Canada in 1998 under the Species At Risk Act. (River Run Photography)

Group effort seeks to save endangered sage-grouse


The greater sage-grouse is a bird that was once common across Canada’s western prairies but the population has decreased by 80 per cent to fewer than 250 wild birds. So, the Calgary Zoo  has enlisted the help of the government’s parks department and the non-profit Nature Conservancy of Canada to try to save what is now one of Canada’s most endangered birds.

“It’s been really the Calgary Zoo that initiated this…doing some population recruitment, which means gathering eggs and hatching them and rearing broods of young chicks to maturity and then releasing them in areas of the grassland where there’s a high probability of them surviving,” said Bob Demulder, regional vice-president of the conservancy in the province of Alberta.

Hens and chicks are being raised in a special enclosure run by the Calgary Zoo. (Calgary Zoo)

Five-year program strives for yearly releases

The zoo released 66 sage-grouse at two protected locations in October 2018.

It is hoping to continue to raise birds and release more over the next five years. At the same time it will monitor how the birds are doing and modify the program as necessary.

The loss, fragmentation and degradation of native grassland habitats are key to the sage-grouse decline. It’s hoped that lands protected by Parks Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada will provide habitat that will help them recover.

The greater sage-grouse is one of 12 species at risk in western Canada that are getting help from the Calgary Zoo. A special 130-hectare off-site conservation facility was built for these conservation efforts and is the only one of its kind in Canada.

(photo: Nature Conservancy of Canada.)

Bob Demulder outlines the program to reintroduce endangered sage-grouse into the wild.

Categories: Environment
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