August 21, 2006
Salem, Oregon –Three sage grouse found dead in Malheur
County have been confirmed to be infected with West Nile Virus,
the first diagnosis of the disease in sage grouse in Oregon .
The dead sage grouse were reported by a private landowner near
Burns Junction and investigated by ODFW and U.S. Geological Survey
biologists, who found three fresh sage grouse mortalities, more
than 60 decomposed sage grouse and one sick northern harrier. The
three sage grouse samples and the northern harrier were tested at
the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in
Madison , Wis. and confirmed positive for the disease.
A team of biologists from ODFW and USGS are now monitoring the
area for additional mortalities and collecting blood samples from
live sage grouse to test for the presence of WNV antibodies. The
sage grouse mortality appears to be localized to an area near
Burns Junction at this time.
Since 2003, West Nile Virus has been detected in sage grouse in
Wyoming , Colorado , Utah , Nevada , California and Idaho . The
disease is usually fatal to sage grouse, resulting in death within
six days of infection.
Overall, Oregon 's sage grouse population remains healthy at about
35,000 birds. Most sage grouse are found in the southeast portion
of the state, particularly Lake , Harney and Malheur counties.
ODFW is requesting the assistance of the public, particularly
landowners and pronghorn antelope hunters, in monitoring the
disease and asks that dead sage grouse be reported or turned in to
an ODFW office. Dead birds can be handled using gloves and an
inverted plastic sack; the bird should then be placed in another
plastic bag and the bag tied. Birds that cannot be promptly
delivered to an ODFW office should be frozen to preserve for