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Nothing to Grouse About

Roadside ruffed grouse surveys completed this spring show statewide drumming activity increased 41 percent between 2018 and 2019, the Wisconsin DNR reports. This increase aligns with a generally predictable upswing in the grouse population cycle.

The large increase in 2019 has made up for much of the unanticipated decline seen in 2018 drumming surveys and appears to put Wisconsin back on track for approaching the next cyclical high in the ruffed grouse population.

Landowners and conservationists visit some grouse habitat during a Coverts workshop /J. Holtz, WI DNR

For complete survey results, visit and search keywords "reports."

Roadside surveys to monitor the number of breeding grouse have been conducted by staff from Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers since 1964.

The survey results showed a 41 percent increase statewide over 2018 levels. The central part of the state showed an increase of 35 percent in drumming activity, and the northern forest showed an increase of 48 percent in drumming activity. These two areas comprise the primary grouse range in Wisconsin.

Drumming activity in both southwestern and southeastern Wisconsin is at or near historic lows.

"Ruffed grouse rely on dense, young forest cover resulting from disturbances such as fire and logging," said Mark Witecha, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist.

"Beyond actively managing state-owned lands, Wisconsin DNR is working to provide suitable grouse habitat through collaborative efforts (that) provide technical and financial assistance for delivering young forest management on private lands, benefiting ruffed grouse and other wildlife species by helping maintain healthy and diverse forest communities," Witecha said.

The DNR is currently working with partners to develop a ruffed grouse management plan, which will be released for public review later this summer, with associated public meetings to be held during a public comment period.

Wisconsin DNR is a partner in the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, working alongside 15 other conservation entities to create this much-needed wildlife habitat.

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