Aug. 10, 2020
In coordination with Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin natural resource departments, ruffed grouse hunters provided more than 700 samples for virus exposure and infection analysis. Blood samples were analyzed for antibodies that would indicate if the bird had been exposed to WNV. Heart tissue was tested for the presence of the virus.
A study from Pennsylvania suggested that birds produced in areas of high-quality habitat are better equipped to survive stressors like West Nile virus. An accessible overview of the Pennsylvania study is available in this Young Forest Project article from November 2016.
“Forested areas with different stages of succession provide optimal habitat and health for grouse,” said Al Stewart, upland game bird specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Birds that live in high-quality habitats are likely to have stronger immune responses to diseases and other pressures. Creating and maintaining these areas are crucial to the success of our grouse population.”
Hunters who provided email contact information with their 2019 samples will be notified of their results this fall.
“We appreciate all of the time and effort made by the state’s grouse hunters to provide samples for this study,” said Julie Melotti, a laboratory technician with the Michigan DNR’s Wildlife Disease Lab. “We would not have been able to achieve this level of sampling without their help.”
Due to current budgetary limitations, funding for the continuation of this study through 2020 is under consideration. Further information on WNV in ruffed grouse can be found on the Michigan DNR’s WNV and Ruffed Grouse FAQ sheet.