Wildlife division seeking volunteers to help with sage grouse surveys

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Help wanted: Hardy volunteers for bird survey. Must be willing to rise before dawn and trek to remote Nevada outbacks. Map-reading skills a plus. No experience necessary. Will train.

That's the call being put out by the Nevada Division of Wildlife, which is seeking volunteers to help survey sage grouse strutting grounds around northern Nevada.

This is the time of year when sage grouse return to breeding sites, known as leks, for their annual courtship ritual.

With tail feathers spread and chests puffed up to reveal yellow air sacs, the males warble and ''strut'' as they try to impress females and fend off other competing suitors.

But the courtship displays, for the most part, only occur for a few hours around dawn.

Hence the need to rise and shine before daybreak.

The wildlife division is holding a training session on April 1 for interested volunteers.

Agency spokesman Kim Toulouse said participants will meet at the division's headquarters in Reno at 3:30 a.m.

From there, the group will go to the Desert Creek area near Wellington, about an hour-and-a-half drive south, to visit a lek and hopefully, view the birds in action.

''Our goal is to get into the lek site in the dark,'' Toulouse said.

Afterwards, participants will head to the agency's fish hatchery in Mason Valley for a class in topographical map reading and use of Global Position System units.

Then they'll be on their own.

Toulouse said volunteers will be asked to commit to survey a number of sage grouse strutting grounds at least three times during the current breeding season.

''By the second week of May it's pretty much all over,'' Toulouse said.

This is the second year the agency has enlisted the help of volunteers to conduct field surveys, Toulouse said.

Volunteers will need to bring their own food and water and should be prepared for snow, wind or rain.

Participants are also advised to dress in layers, as the temperature can swing from below freezing at dawn to sunny and warm as the day wears on.


Preregistration is required. For more information, contact Kim Toulouse at 688-1893.


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