Though it hardly seems like spring, the Wyoming version is underway. But, don’t let the cold and windy weather keep you indoors; April is a good time to spy sage grouse on their leks in Wyoming.
The greater sage grouse is the largest species of grouse in North America. Each spring, male sage grouse perform an elaborate sunrise display on communal breeding grounds known as “leks.” While sage grouse require sagebrush landscapes to survive, leks are often located in open areas where the males can be better seen and heard by females.
“The dramatic display makes viewing sage grouse a popular recreational activity in the spring across much of Wyoming,” said Leslie Schreiber sage grouse/sagebrush program coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
To guide your lek outings, the Game and Fish offers a Sage Grouse Lek Viewing Guide to take you to the best publicly-accessible viewing locations across Wyoming. The guide, located on the Game and Fish website, provides directions to each lek location. Users also have the option of downloading a geoPDF, an interactive cellphone map.
There are courtesies to follow while witnessing the sage grouse’s early morning rituals.
“When visiting the leks, it’s important to remain unobtrusive,” said Schreiber.
Game and Fish urges individuals when viewing to:
- Arrive at lek sites at least one hour before sunrise.
- Park away from the edge of the lek. Do not drive onto the lek.
- Turn off the vehicle lights and engine.
- Use binoculars and spotting scopes to observe birds.
- Stay in your vehicle.
- Avoid making loud noises or sudden movements.
- Let the bird leave before you do.
- Leave pets at home.
- Respect leks on private land and do not trespass. View from a distance on public land with binoculars or use a spotting scope to observe birds.
- Postpone your visit if roads are muddy.
“Late April is a good time to visit a lek because most of the breeding is complete, but the males are still actively strutting. The weather is usually better, too,” said Schreiber.
Visit the Game and Fish sage grouse website to learn more about sage grouse conservation.