Youth Conservation Project Benefits Greater Sage-Grouse at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
by Tom Koerner, Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge Project Leader
October 8, 2015
Seedskadee, the name for the Wyoming national wildlife refuge, originated from the Shoshone Indian word “Sisk-a-dee-agie” meaning “river of the prairie chicken.” Each spring, the refuge’s namesake comes to light as the early morning air fills with the sun’s first rays and some mysterious sounds. It’s the greater sage-grouse, a large, ground-dwelling bird found only in sagebrush country where it depends on sagebrush for its habitat and food source. Male sage-grouse have air sacs on their breasts, which they inflate and deflate, making a unique sound. The sage-grouse gather on leks – ancestral strutting grounds to which birds return year after year – where males inflate their air sacs, fan their tail feathers and strut in an effort to attract females in their mating ritual.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in southwest Wyoming in the shadow of the Wind River Mountain Range and comprised of wetland, riparian and upland habitats along 36 miles of the Green River. Along with the greater sage-grouse, the refuge is home to a multitude of species including big game, small mammals and birds, and is an important migration route and nesting area for a wide variety of migratory and resident birds.
This past summer, youth from the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa made a big difference on a variety of projects at Seedskadee NWR. In two weeks, the crew of six completed a number of projects including environmental outreach and education activities for the City of Green River and maintenance projects on the refuge.
One of the crew’s most important projects was for the benefit of the greater sage-grouse. When sage-grouse fly in low-light conditions, it is difficult for the bird to see fences and they often collide with the wires. In an effort to reduce collisions, the crew marked the top wires of the refuge’s boundary fence with sage-grouse aversion markers. Made of a thin strip of vinyl siding and reflective tape, the markers help sage-grouse and other birds see the fence in low-light conditions and avoid the wire. Research shows the markers can reduce greater sage-grouse fence collisions by almost 90 percent, especially when placed on the top wire. The crew assembled hundreds of markers and placed them on 25 miles of the refuge’s boundary fence.
Project leader Tom Koerner said, “The efforts of these youth will help with greater sage-grouse conservation for years to come. The Conservation Corps is a great organization doing excellent work and the dedicated crew was able to focus and complete this important project during their time here.”
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