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Inside the Blind: Sharp-tailed Grouse Show Off Their Moves

Updated: 05/01/2014 10:49 PM
Created: 05/01/2014 3:40 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

The Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area in northwest Wisconsin contains a globally rare habitat, the pine barrens. The rare habitat also offers a rare sight of sharp-tailed grouse doing their flamboyant mating dance.  

Sitting in the blind before the sun is up, Eyewitness News anxiously waited for some action. But it wasn't long before the male sharp-tails fill the dance floor.

"They challenge each other a little and they kind of attract the females to come in and the girls kind of pick out, 'oh, I like that one and, no, I don't like that one,'" said Mark Nupen, president of the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area.

Sometimes, it takes a while for the ladies to show up. In the meantime, the guys spar a little bit, they gobble, they coo, sometimes they just stare at each other, but mostly, they show off their dance moves.

Nupen describes it as a "comical robot dance." 

Their dancing didn't do it for the ladies on rainy Thursday, but Nupen said the males will be back.

Nupen said the area is truly unique, and the Wisconsin DNR calls it one of the best places to see sharp-tail dance.

The habitat is sandy, full of brush, and renewed every five to six years by burning. It's called the sand or pine barrens.

The sand barrens used to cover much of the state, today, Nupen said, about one-percent of the habitat remains.

"The plants and animals are different because of that. There are flowers that you don't find in the wooded areas the, sharp-tail you don't find in the wooded areas," he explained.

But now, the wildlife area is getting a bit more acreage.

1,400 more acres has been preserved thanks to a partnership among the DNR, the Conservation Fund and several regional contributors. The DNR said grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, through Walmart’s Acres for America program, paid for the $1-plus million price tag from a timber company. 

"This is huge. Basically it's 30-percent more land of pine oak barrens, so the increase is just going to be felt immensely by the wildlife," said DNR wildlife biologist, Nancy Christel.

With the addition of the new land, the Namekagon Barrens now sits at 6,500 acres.

The DNR said more land ensures that the ecologically significant habitat can thrive and "sharp-tailed grouse can continue to dance each spring."

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