Thursday, 06 March 2014 06:58

Did anyone think that with the sage grouse – it’s perhaps Mother Nature's doing?

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The governments and special interest groups (especially the local Grasslands Naturalists) have blamed the oil and gas industry for greater sage grouse population declines. Another more plausible explanation is that Mother Nature has decided that this species does not work and its population will decline and possibly be eliminated. Research shows that Mother Nature has challenged the bird in many aspects:
1. Reproduction.Sage grouse have the poorest reproduction of upland birds in the area. In 2011 and 2012, 41 birds in total were relocated from Montana to Alberta and less than 30 per cent nested.
2. Disease. In one area along the Montana/Wyoming border only 20 per cent of females survived where West Nile was found compared to 76 per cent at two sites where it was not detected. West Nile was first detected in sage grouse in 2003, a recent challenge added by Mother Nature.
3. Weather. Extreme weather conditions, especially during the nesting and brood rearing periods, can result in complete losses in productivity. Drought results in decreased food and escape covers and over multiple years can result in significant population declines.
4. Habitat. Canadian sage grouse habitat is the northern one per cent of current North American habitat. It supports fewer than 100 birds while western U.S. states have as many as 500,000 sage-grouse. The northern habitat with its more severe winters and isolation from Montana populations due to a buffer of cultivated land south of the border make survival difficult in Canada.
5. Predation. The sage grouse has many predators. It has been described as a tasty treat on legs. Predators feast on eggs, juveniles and adults. Predators are birds such as owls, eagles, hawks, crows and magpies; mammals include coyotes, badgers, skunks and weasels. Mother Nature has lately expanded invasive species to the area such as the raccoon, red fox, gull and raven, and the government has reintroduced the kit fox. Of the birds relocated from Montana, 13 built nests over two years but only two nests hatched because predators destroyed the other nests. Several of the adult birds were also killed. Governments and special interest groups need to face the fact that Mother Nature only allows survival of the fittest. The Emergency Protection Order brought down, and lobbied for by special interest groups will only deal a blow to the City's finances and cause job losses in the City. It will not change the law of nature.
Miles Mayer, Medicine Hat

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