Collaborating to Save Greater Sage Grouse in Canada
The greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus urophasianus) is one of the top priority species of conservation concern in Canada. Dependent upon sagebrush habitat for food and shelter, this species is at risk due to habitat loss and degradation, industrial disturbance, changing climatic conditions, and other threats.
Greater sage grouse populations now occupy only 7% of the historical Canadian range and have declined by 98% in the past 25-45 years. About 100 adults remain in Canada, split into two isolated populations. Stochastic processes in these small populations have led to a female-biased sex ratio, with only 31 adult males remaining in Canada split between the two populations. Extinction could occur within 10 years if conservation action is not taken, calling for immediate action to prevent further decline.
In collaboration with Calgary Zoo’s Centre for Conservation Research and IUCN’s Reintroduction and Galliformes Specialist Groups, CBSG conducted a PHVA for greater sage grouse in Canada. Existing recovery plans were expanded to incorporate management actions to reduce the primary threats driving population decline and to explore population management strategies to prevent imminent extinction. Participants outlined strategies to address poor population growth, including increasing functional habitat, minimizing disturbance and fragmentation, and reducing high predation rates. Population management options include conservation translocations from wild-to-wild and captive-to-wild for population reinforcement and reintroduction. An ex situ population will be developed by Calgary Zoo as an assurance population and potential source for translocations.
This workshop successfully integrated a wide diversity of stakeholders—from wildlife managers and field researchers to local landowners and representatives of the energy industry—to evaluate and recommend both ex situ and in situ conservation management techniques as part of an integrated conservation plan to support the recovery of the greater sage grouse in Canada. The collaboration of three IUCN SSC Specialist Groups encouraged the application of various IUCN guidelines—the new reintroduction guidelines, draft revised guidelines for ex situ management, and reintroduction guidelines for Galliformes—to properly assess and develop effective conservation strategies. The result is a strong example of the One Plan approach to species conservation planning in action.
Photos by Calgary Zoo.