Hunters encouraged to collect spruce grouse feathers for genetics study

September 14, 2020


Spruce grouse hunters in northern Minnesota’s boreal forests are being asked to voluntarily submit feather samples for a genetics research project being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the University of Minnesota.

“Hunters who enjoy pursuing these birds are critical to the success of this project and our work to conserve this species,” said DNR grouse research scientist Charlotte Roy. “Data collection for this project is simple and can be a fun science activity to engage hunters of all ages.”

The study will use grouse genetics to form a baseline of data to establish how spruce grouse currently use the landscape and to identify changes in habitat connectivity over time. When habitat becomes fragmented and a species loses connectivity to its former range, the species can form smaller distinct genetic groups over time.

Spruce grouse are a climate-sensitive species that rely on boreal forest habitats containing black spruce, jack pine and tamarack – all of which are expected to shift northward on the landscape as temperatures increase.

Hunters who would like to assist with the project should collect three to five large wing or tail feathers along with the GPS coordinates of the harvest location. The feathers, GPS coordinates and the hunter’s name and telephone number should be mailed to: Grouse Research, DNR regional headquarters, 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN  55744. Harvest locations will not be made public. Hunters should mail samples from each bird in a separate envelope and not mix feather samples from multiple birds.

This research project is funded by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources with dollars from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Surveys show hunters have harvested between 7,081 and 19,130 spruce grouse each year over the last 11 years. More information about spruce grouse management can be found on the hunting grouse page of the DNR website.