WY sage grouse hard hit by western drought

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August 10, 2002

Drought takes toll on wildlife

Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - All types of wildlife have been affected as Wyoming trudges through a fourth year of drought, according to a Wyoming Game and Fish Department official.

Harry Harju, assistant wildlife chief for the department, said sage grouse and antelope have suffered most.

Water holes and stock ponds have dried up, and many plants and wildflowers have not been getting enough water to grow in most places on Wyoming's plains.

Oil field workers have reported that antelope have been seeking shade around oil rigs only to die for lack of water.

Sage grouse hens, meanwhile, need cover to hide their chicks but they have had difficulty finding cover. Also in short supply are the insects and new vegetation eaten by sage grouse chicks.

"Sage grouse chick survival is about minimal this summer," Harju said.

In the Sierra Madre Range, many forage plants have been in short supply and deer have resorted to eating willows, which they typically eat only during the winter. Elk and moose are similarly affected.

On top of that, more deer and antelope are being killed by vehicles than usual because they are feeding near roads where drainage ditches keep vegetation green.

Harju said many animals will die if this winter is harsh with considerable cold and snow.
 


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