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A Landowner's Guide

Quick and Inexpensive Things You Can Do to Help Sage-Grouse

Each ranch is unique and may require creative thinking on your part to what practice or changes would have the most positive effect.

  • Preserve the sagebrush plant communities you have. Large blocks of sagebrush are important for the survival of sage-grouse.
  • Keep the number of roads and two-tracks to a minimum; pre-planning should minimize them as a matter of standard practice.
  • Harvest crop fields from the inside out so chicks are forced to the outside rather than concentrated to the center and into the swather’s path. You might consider a flushing bar to reduce all wildlife encounters. These bars scare wildlife out ahead of the swather, preventing incidents.
  • Sage-grouse dancing grounds (leks) are specific areas at which sage-grouse congregate to display and breed (March to June). Do not routinely disturb these. If you have one on your property report it to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP).
  • Preserve the dancing ground (lek) area.
  • Sage-grouse do strike fences. Some locations are more prone to this problem than others. Fences near dancing grounds can present problems because birds move to the display grounds in the dark, increasing fence strike potential. Fences through dancing grounds or located on elevated rises near dancing grounds should be avoided. Remove abandoned, unused fences. Woven wire fences are particularly restrictive to sage-grouse. Tags, like cattle ear tags, can be placed on the fence in problem areas to provide visual warning for unsuspecting grouse. The Sutton Avian Research Center has experimented with many designs and has developed a very effective and practical design available on their Web site under Fence Marking for Lesser Prairie-Chickens.
  • Give special attention to riparian and mesic (wet) areas. Areas that maintain soil moisture longer than the surrounding uplands are important for broods and adults alike. These areas may be treeless grassy areas but they provide increased forbs and insects which are important during the spring and summer months. Quick “flash grazing” or short duration grazing are good grazing practices for these sites.
  • Install escape ramps in stock tanks. One problem stock tank in Musselshell County, Montana drowned 18 birds in the same tank.
  • Spraying of pesticide in the spring for insect control should consider the impacts to sage-grouse. Don’t use more then what is required to do the job and realize that broods eating insects could be affected.
  • Remove unused culverts and outbuildings that attract use by mammalian predators.
  • Don’t allow domestic cats to go feral.
  • Management methods are evolving as more is learned. Seek help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP), or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
  • Graze moderately for the benefit of the range and sage-grouse. Remember, residual cover (last year's growth) is important for nesting cover and the health of range plants.