The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is again asking ruffed grouse hunters to submit samples during the final year of a four-year, multistate ruffed grouse West Nile virus study.

The DNR and conservation partners will distribute testing kits to hunters in an effort to get more samples as biologists try to determine how many grouse are getting West Nile and what impacts the disease is having on the grouse population.

Anyone else who finds a sick or entact dead grouse can also submit samples.

Hunters who have a kit from a previous year are encouraged to collect a sample, fill the kit and send it in to be processed; nothing in the kit expires. Kits will be available in early September. The DNR may limit the number of kits per individual to ensure samples come from a large geographic area.

The DNR will provide test results via email. Sample testing will not begin until after the grouse season has closed and final results will not be available for several months after that.

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Minnesota concluded its grouse sampling for West Nile in 2019.

Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus and its effects on birds can vary. Signs range from no clinical disease or illness to heart lesions and inflammation of the brain's lining and spinal cord. There is no evidence that West Nile can be spread by handling dead birds or consuming properly cooked game.

In addition to collecting samples from harvested ruffed grouse, the DNR asks the public to report any sick or dead grouse observed while out in the field. Those who find a ruffed grouse that appears sick or emaciated, or a freshly dead grouse, should take note of the location and promptly call the DNR county wildlife biologist for possible submission of the dead grouse for further investigation and to help the department track reports statewide.

Those who collect the carcass for testing should keep the entire bird intact. Place it in a plastic bag and keep the bird cool, but not frozen. Bring the whole ruffed grouse carcass to your county wildlife biologist the same day or the next day. Prompt collection of ruffed grouse is necessary to prevent decomposition or scavenging. The DNR recommends that gloves are worn whenever handling dead animals, even those that appear healthy.

If refrigeration and prompt delivery are not possible, carcasses should be frozen and submitted to county wildlife biologists as soon as possible.

For more information on ruffed grouse in Wisconsin, go to dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/ruffedgrouse.html.