2015 North Dakota Ruffed Grouse Numbers

North Dakota’s spring ruffed grouse survey indicated a 44 percent population increase statewide compared to 2014, according to Stan Kohn, upland game bird supervisor for the State Game and Fish Department.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish
photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish

The number of male grouse heard drumming in the Pembina Hills was up 86 percent from last year, while the Turtle Mountains had a 35 percent increase. No drumming males were heard in McHenry County (J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge), where they have not been heard since 2006.

The statewide average number of ruffed grouse drums heard per best stop was 0.94, up from last year’s count of 0.65. The last year statewide spring drumming counts were higher than 2.0 was in 1999.

“Ruffed grouse in North Dakota seem to adjust their numbers depending on habitat quantity and quality in an area and amount of food available,” Kohn said. “In states with good continuous aspen/birch forest habitat, ruffed grouse numbers usually rise and fall around 9- to 10-year cycles, but because the habitat in North Dakota is so fragmented, we haven’t seen these 10-year fluctuations in many years.”