October 1, 2019

Indiana: Ruffed Grouse to be listed as State Endangered Species

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager

On September 17, the Indiana Natural Resource Commission (INRC) approved a citizen’s petition submitted by the Ruffed Grouse Society to add ruffed grouse to their state endangered species list. After careful consideration, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of support for the listing, which called for the swift implementation of a strong action plan focused on sound scientific wildlife and forestry management practices with clearly defined goals and benchmarks for recovery.

Historically, ruffed grouse inhabited all 92 counties in Indiana and were a popular game bird. However, by 1983, it was confirmed that ruffed grouse had been extirpated from 43 counties in the state. Today, it’s believed that these birds only inhabit a very small portion in the southern part of the state. In 2015, the ruffed grouse hunting season was suspended in Indiana and listed as a Species of Special Concern.

Biologists believe that the rapid decline in Indiana’s ruffed grouse population is the result of a lack of suitable young forests that provide critical ruffed grouse habitat. Without significant timber harvests across the state to regenerate forests, the total extirpation of ruffed grouse in Indiana will be unavoidable. Creating young forests through active management not only benefits grouse conservation, but also the American woodcock (which is another species in sharp decline in the state), a variety of song birds, and a multitude of other game and non-game species.

In recent years, CSF has actively engaged with legislators, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the INRC, and our conservation partners to promote scientific wildlife and forestry management practices in the state, and educate those when necessary, on the negative ramifications that poor forestry management (i.e., no management) can have on the forests and forest-dwelling wildlife. 

The listing of ruffed grouse as a state endangered species is a last resort in order to recover the species in Indiana. CSF is resolved to continue our work in Indiana to promote scientific management practices with the goals of not only returning ruffed grouse to a sustainable abundance that allows for the re-establishment of a hunting season, but also to ensure that public policy supports the health of all forests and wildlife in the state.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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