Hunters encouraged to submit spruce grouse feathers for genetics study

November 22, 2021


Grouse season open through Jan. 2

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

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. This study will use grouse genetics to form a baseline of data to establish how spruce grouse currently use the landscape, then 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.

“Hunters who enjoy pursuing these birds are critical to the success of this project and our work to conserve this species,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse research scientist. “Data collection for this project is simple, but we are currently falling short of our sampling goal this year. We’re hoping hunters can help us by submitting another 100 to 125 feather samples in this final year of the two-year project.”

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. Hunters are asked to 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 money from the Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund. Last year, 111 individual samples were submitted.

Small game harvest surveys show hunters have harvested anywhere from 7,000-19,000 spruce grouse annually over the last 11 years. More information about spruce grouse management can be found on the DNR website.