New captive breeding program will mean a lot more ‘grousing’ for Alberta

This week, we announced a new captive breeding and rearing program for the sage-grouse. We’re committing $2.1 million to this program, and that funding has been matched by Environment Canada. With over $1 million donated by individuals and organizations, we’re looking at a total of $5.3 million over the next decade. Here’s what that money will do.

The issue 

Photo credit: Gord Court

Photo credit: Gord Court

While some Species at Risk in Alberta are naturally rare, others are impacted by human development. That’s the case with the sage-grouse. Habitat loss, human industry, and diseases (like West Nile) have all resulted in a decline of the species – and there are now less than 150 left in the entire country.

While restoration of sage-grouse habitat is critical to help the species recover, we also need to make sure there are enough of them to thrive. That’s where captive breeding comes in.

How the captive breeding program will help

Captive breeding stabilizes conditions for population growth – it ensures that there will be adequate food for the offspring, and removes predators from the equation. This helps the population grow faster than it probably would in the wild.

Making sure this happens, though, requires careful care and lots of expertise. That’s where the Calgary Zoo comes in – they have the equipment and know-how required to ensure the grouse stay healthy in their temporary environment. In fact, they’ve played a key role in the recovery of other species at risk in Canada, including the whooping crane and black footed ferret.

One piece of the puzzle

Our work won’t be done when the new grouse population is reintroduced to their native habitat. To continue to thrive, this population will need a secure habitat and a ready food source – and it’s our goal to make sure that’s in place, by reclaiming their key habitat in southeast Alberta.

So far, 330 reclamation certificates have been issued for oil and gas well sites in this area – and 50 well sites are being reclaimed right now. We’ll be working with leaseholders, experts, and industry during the reclamation process to ensure that this work continues – and that the result is secure habitat for this species.

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