Ruffed Grouse Populations Still High

Northern Minnesota’s population of ruffed grouse remains high according to recent drumming counts conducted by Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resource.

This year observers recorded 1.7 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2009 and 2010 were 2.0 and 1.5 drums per stop, respectively. The DNR surveys grouse populations by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming along established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.

Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.  Ruffed grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle.

“The grouse population is probably still near the high end of the 10-year cycle because drumming counts this spring were between the values observed during 2009 and 2010,” DNR research scientist and grouse biologist Mike Larson said. “Drum counts from the last three years haven’t followed the same smooth pattern as during the previous two peaks in the cycle, but relatively small changes in the index may be due to factors other than the density of grouse.”

Such factors could include weather, habitat conditions, observer ability and grouse behavior.

Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, making it the state’s most popular game bird.

Read the full Minnesota DNR media release on the subject HERE.

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