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Maine Grouse Study Underway

Erik Blomberg

Maine State wildlife biologists and University of Maine researchers are embarking on a three-year project to study one of the state's popular forest dwelling birds, the ruffed grouse.

"They're a relatively common game bird ," says University of Maine biologist Erik Blomberg, "but also an important one." 

One of the researchers on the project, Blomberg,  a lifelong sportsman and conservationist,  says  that
such studies are usually only carried out when species are in trouble. While it's assumed that grouse are a plentiful bird in the woods of Maine, Blomberg says there are still many unknowns.

"How birds interact with their environments, how what humans do affect those interactions, how it causes the populations to change through time," explains Blomberg,"So in order to understand those things, you need to get out in the world and in the field and catch birds and mark them and follow them around."

And that's just what the researchers are doing. Birds will be trapped in two separate areas of the state, the locations of which have not been disclosed to the public.  The secrecy, says Blomberg is to preserve the habitat areas as they are, rather than risk attracting more curious humans or hunters to the area- which could skew the data.

Credit Erik Blomberg
A collar band that will be placed on a grouse.

  The study involves trapping a number of ruffed grouse, fitting them with radio collars, and then tracking their movements for a year. The grouses' survival rates, habits, and breeding success will then be recorded. Blomberg says the birds may also fall victim to hunting; if that happens the project researchers ask that hunters notify the team through the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife or the University of Maine, as the tags can be reused.

The project is largely funded through the University of Maine with federal matching grants of nearly 200 thousand dollars.