Visit a sage grouse lek April 8

The opportunity to visit a sage grouse lek near Price has been arranged by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on April 8. Participants may see a scene similar to this male sage grouse performing his strutting ritual. (Photo by Larry Dalton, Utah DWR)

PRICE — One of the iconic native species of the West is the greater sage grouse. Every spring, these birds gather at sites adjacent to nesting grounds called leks, where the males put on elaborate displays of courtship characterized by strutting and unique vocalizations.

Interested persons can witness this ritual at a free wildlife viewing event near Price on April 8. The event will be held at Emma Park, about 13 miles north of Price.

Because sage grouse are sensitive to human disturbances, the event will be limited to 15 vehicles and pre-registration is required. Viewing the birds is best before and right after sunrise, so attendees will need to be at the site early. Sage grouse usually leave their strutting ground within an hour after sun-up.

Division of Wildlife Resources biologists will be there to help to find the birds and answer questions about sage grouse biology and management.

“Watching sage grouse perform their impressive rituals, on traditional strutting grounds, is an extraordinary experience,” says Morgan Jacobsen, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. “This is a chance to escape the busyness of life and watch a quiet, yet remarkable, natural event in Utah.”

Photographers will likely be challenged by their distance from the leks, as well as obstructions posed by brush and rolling terrain. Binoculars and spotting scopes will be available for attendees who don’t have their own.

Before making the trip, please be aware that other limiting factors may cause the grouse to leave the viewing site early or to not visit the site at all. Eagles, coyotes and other predators can scare them away. Wind, rain or snow can also cause them to seek cover and stay out of sight.

“As with any wildlife viewing event, there’s no guarantee the elements will be perfect,” Jacobsen says. “Part of the joy that comes from witnessing these birds in such a special setting is knowing it doesn’t happen every day.”

For more information or to register for the event, contact Jacobsen at (435) 613-3707 or email morganjacobsen@utah.gov.