Alberta Spruce Grouse

There is concern that spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) numbers may be trending lower in Alberta, although the information to validate this assumption is lacking. We were asked by Alberta Environment and Parks to develop an approach for gaining a better understanding of trends over space and time. We began in 2021 with three main tasks: first, we summarized spruce grouse harvest data from 2015 to 2020 to better understand hunter success spatially and among years; second, we asked trappers to provide their insight on spruce grouse numbers using a brief survey; and third, we trialed a methodology to detect occupancy based on the presence/absence of spruce grouse pellets.

Since 2015, spruce grouse harvest and hunter numbers have shown a general increasing trend, with lower harvest numbers in 2017 and 2020. The average annual harvest of spruce grouse reported was 6,123 (range 4,888 – 8,856) over six years (2015 through 2020) taken by an average of 2,657 (range 2,216 – 4,301) hunters that were willing to voluntarily report this information. We received and summarized responses from 131 Registered Fur Management Area licence holders, almost half of whom believed the three-year trend (2018–19 to 2020–21) for forest grouse has held stable, while almost a third believed numbers were decreasing. Lastly, we adapted a pellet survey protocol developed in Minnesota, and tested the methodology in April and May of 2021. We surveyed 13 transects and spruce grouse pellets were detected at three of those sites, all from the Northwest Region. A transect takes about 30 minutes to complete and surveyors require some guidance to confidently differentiate between pellets dropped by spruce vs. ruffed grouse. The pellet count survey proved to be simple and effective; however, conducting the surveys over a broad spatial area would be logistically challenging.


Alberta Trappers Association, Alberta Environment and Parks

Annual Summaries

Title Year Category
Alberta Spruce Grouse 2021-2022 2