Breaking Sage-grouse News: Hunters Shoot Hens

The latest Auk (Journal of the American Ornithologists Union) arrived recently, Volume 127.  A monograph at 16-22 regards sex ratios of Greater Sage-grouse.

This is interesting:  hunter harvest data shows more females than males are shot by hunters.

The authors of the study report trapped and radio-collared hens and followed their nesting activities.  Sex ratios were almost one-to-one male to female at hatch.

The comparison of hatched birds to shot birds leads to these alternative conclusions:

  1. Males are lost to predators between hatch and hunting season, such that fewer are available to hunters.
  2. Hunters preferentially (intentionally or accidentally) shoot females.

Losing a higher proportion of females each hunting season is not consistent with species recovery.

I had a comment from “Delrod”, who pointed out that it is difficult to separate hens from males while bringing the fowling piece to the shoulder.  He is right, although sometimes it’s easier than other times.  But here is my point: it is hard to separate them, which is why the Game and Fish Department lets people shoot both genders.  I propose to shoot neither gender.

I had a comment from someone who declines to identify him or her self who apparently knows me and thinks I am inconsistent about the Greater Sage-grouse.  Everyone understands that this species is stressed by loss of habitat to sod-busting, overgrazing, wildfires, cheat grass, roads, crested wheatgrass and urban sprawl.  Add these problems: mammalian predators, raptors, hunters, West Nile Virus and rural industrialization. Yes, I acknowledge the obvious fact that the species is stressed. It is not endangered. I am studying the literature and trying to sort out which causes are bigger stressors than others.  These are not simple issues.  I plan to tackle them and try hard not to talk out of both sides of my mouth, and when I am finished, I will probably have succeeded in offending everyone.

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