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Minnesota grouse drumming counts rise by 34 percent

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Minnesota’s ruffed grouse drumming counts in northern Minnesota increased significantly this spring compared to 2013, according to the annual survey conducted by the state Department of Natural Resources.

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“Ruffed grouse drums increased 34 percent from the previous year, with the increase happening in the northern part of the state,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader, in a news release. “This may signal the start of an upswing in the grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase.”

Ruffed grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, and the increase is consistent with changes typical of that cycle, the DNR reported. The most recent peak in drum counts occurred in 2009.

The population is surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes in the state’s forested regions. Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population.

The 2014 survey results, released last week, showed drumming counts of

1.3 per stop in the northeast, which is the bird’s core range. That’s up from 0.9 drums per stop in 2013.

Drumming counts in the northwest increased from 0.7 drums per stop in 2013 to 1.2 in 2014. Counts dropped slightly in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.8 and 0.3 drums per stop this year, respectively, down from 0.9 and 0.4 in 2013.

The statewide average was 1.1 drums per stop this year, up from 0.9 in 2013.

r Statewide sharp-tailed grouse counts were higher in 2014 compared to 2013, but the changes were not significant in either the northwest or east-central survey regions, the Minnesota DNR reported.

The statewide average of 9.8 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. During the past 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground, the DNR reported.

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