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Off the Science Desk

Jeffrey A. Stratford, PhD

    Early in my childhood I would hear what I thought was a diesel engine starting - but never running - in the forest. A local hunter, probably grinning, finally informed me that it was a male Ruf
fed Grouse displaying on a log. I have never been fortunate enough to see the display and my chances are becoming slimmer as populations decline across most of the range.
     Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain the decline and the reasons are probably complex, but the susceptibility of grouse to West Nile Virus is currently being explored as a likely culprit. In a recent paper in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases (, a team of researchers examined the proportion of grouse with West Nile Virus (WNV) in the blood (seroprevalence) and compared this to the abundance of mosquitoes. Across years and locations, the proportion of WNV positive grouse ranged between 3 and 23 percent. Interestingly, more WNV-infected mosquitoes in an area was associated with lower rates
of WNV infection in grouse.

     The authors suggest that grouse are highly susceptible to West Nile Virus and more mosquitoes will result in fewer grouse. Climate models predict weather conditions prime for mosquitoes, so the future does not look great for the state bird of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Stratford is a member of the Wilkes University Department of Biology and Health Sciences & Interim Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering Office


“We should not allow for decisionmakers to describe one more extreme-weather outage as a ‘wake-up call.’ The radio has been blaring for so long now. What will it take for the people in power to stop hitting snooze?”

                                                                                                 Julie McNamara

                                                                                       Senior Energy Analyst

                                                                                       Union of Concerned Scientists

                                                                                       Climate and Energy Program