Gunnison Sage-Grouse Festival and Summit

Dr. Patrick Magee
Wildlife Biologist
Western State
Colorado University

Jonathan Coop
Western State
Colorado University

Janice Welborn
Director, Sponsored
Programs & Grants

Western State
Colorado University

Chris Dickey
Editor and Owner
Gunnison Country Times

Doug Washburn
Gunnison Stockgrowers Association

Marcella Fremgen
Gunnison Resident

News: Gunnison Sage-grouse
listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act on 12 November, 2014.

Welcome to Sisk-a-dee

2015 Gunnison Sage-grouse Viewing UPDATE

Check out Waunita Sage-grouse Blog for daily updates of the Gunnison Sage-grouse activity at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site.

Greetings to all from Gunnison, Colorado.  The Gunnison Sage-grouse viewing season started on April 1, 2015.  As many of you know, the grouse have made an interesting shift in their distribution.  It is rare for a bird with high site fidelity to move and likely this behavior is related to the cumulative impacts of disturbance in the vicinity of the lek.  Last year, the birds started moving off the traditional lek and this year they have so far completely abandoned the traditional site.  While we have tried to create a viewing opportunity that reduces the impacts of viewing on the grouse, it is likely that the presence of birders over the last 15 years has contributed to the behavior of the grouse.  Nonetheless, the grouse are still visible from the viewing site, although much farther away than we have had the luxury of viewing them in the past.  The grouse have moved north in the meadow, in an area where the willows are denser so viewing obstruction is significant.  They have also moved to the east and up on top of the sagebrush ridge.  While the birds may be 1 km or more away from the viewing site, it is still possible to see them fairly well with a spotting scope.  They are often well lit on exposed sites. 

Sisk-a-dee and its partners are concerned that birders begin to deviate from the viewing protocols established to protect the Gunnison Sage-grouse.  Many conservation groups including birding organizations supported the recent listing of the Gunnison Sage-grouse as a Threatened Species.  I am encouraging all of you to conduct Gunnison Sage-grouse viewing with the utmost integrity of ethics.  Please see the website for specific details on viewing protocols.  We urge all visitors to view the grouse from the Waunita Watchable Wildlife site and not to drive further up the road to get a closer view.  Currently there are approximately 5,000 Gunnison Sage-grouse in existence world-wide with 87% in the Gunnison Basin.  The loss of one lek is a substantial blow.  One lek was already depleted due to lek viewing activities.  If the Waunita lek continues to fade and the birds move further away from their traditional lek, it is very unlikely that another watchable wildlife site will be established. The birding community advocates for grouse protection and all are ambassadors for the Gunnison Sage-grouse.  If birders drive up the road, recognize that they may be subject to a wildlife harassment violation if their actions cause the grouse to flush from the lek.  Volunteers continue to monitor the site daily and will be available to help all visitors locate the grouse in their new locations.

Monitors viewed 29 Gunnison Sage-grouse at the new locations on Wednesday April 1 and 20 birds on Saturday April 4.  Thank you for your consideration of our 15 year effort to protect one of North America's rarest birds.

Please feel free to contact Sisk-a-dee at 970-641-3959 if you would like to discuss the issue or have questions about your visit.  As in the past, a viewing trailer is available for reservation or you can view the lek from your vehicle 7 days a week starting at least one hour before sunrise from 1 April to 15 May.  Please keep in mind that the viewing site opens on April 1.
Negotiations are underway to determine the future of the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site, which is managed in cooperation by Sisk-a-dee, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee.  Depending on this year's grouse counts, site operation may change in the future including complete closure, partial closure (viewing available on certain days each week), or continue the status quo.  Further, speed limit reductions and no parking regulations are being considered.

Patrick Magee!
Sisk-a-dee, Director
970-641-3959 or

Mission Statement:
Sisk-a-dee was founded in 2000 to promote the implementation of the Gunnison Sage-grouse Conservation Plan within the Gunnison Basin, Colorado.

Sisk-a-dee is the only organization completely dedicated to the conservation of the Gunnison Sage-grouse. The Gunnison Basin holds the largest remaining population of Gunnison Sage-grouse in the world. As the grouse have declined over the last half century, concerned land managers, environmentalists, and landowners developed a Conservation Plan (1995) to restore habitat and populations. Sisk-a-dee has worked cooperatively with the Gunnison Sage-grouse Working Group to identify the biological and cultural challenges facing the grouse. Sisk-a-dee has sought coordination and strategic planning in the implementation process. Sisk-a-dee works with county, state and federal agencies, including Western State Colorado University, and other non-profit organizations, as well as landowners.  

Sisk-a-dee has coordinated the Watchable Wildlife Program for Gunnison Sage-grouse since 2001 in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Conservation Plan recognizes recreational use of the Gunnison Sage-grouse during the spring lekking season as a viable human activity, but as a potential impact on grouse population status. Since 2000, when the Gunnison Sage-grouse gained species recognition, birders from many parts of the world have visited Gunnison in order to view the grouse. Sisk-a-dee has worked collaboratively with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, Western State Colorado University, and the Gunnison Sage-grouse Working Group to develop protocols for viewing and for monitoring and managing the basin's Watchable Wildlife Program. Currently, Sisk-a-dee works closely with Western State Colorado University to provide a well monitored viewing site for the public and for commercial groups. Students and others are present on the site every morning during the spring viewing season. They also collect data on grouse numbers and behaviors and collect data on human numbers and behaviors. These dedicated individuals also enrich the experience of visitors.


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