Gunnison Sage-Grouse Festival and Summit

Dr. Patrick Magee
Wildlife Biologist
Western State
Colorado University

Jonathan Coop
Western State
Colorado University

Janice Welborn
Director, Sponsored
Programs & Grants

Western State
Colorado University

Chris Dickey
Editor and Owner
Gunnison Country Times

Doug Washburn
Gunnison Stockgrowers Association

Marcella Fremgen
Gunnison Resident

Welcome to Sisk-a-dee

2018 Gunnison Sage-grouse Viewing UPDATE

Check out
Waunita Sage-grouse Blog

for daily updates of the Gunnison Sage-grouse activity at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site.

Greetings to all from Gunnison, Colorado. 

The Gunnison Sage-grouse viewing season at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site kicks off on 1 April 2018. No viewing is permitted prior to 1 April and no viewing is permitted outside of the Watchable Wildlife Site! The lek area is surrounded by private property and birders attempting to view the grouse alongside the county road risk harassing Gunnison Sage-grouse. This is the only site where Gunnison Sage-grouse viewing is permitted on public or private land in the Gunnison Basin. Your help in following viewing protocols is essential to reduce disturbance to the birds and allow the site to remain open in future years.

The grouse have changed their patterns of use at the traditional lek site and have moved farther away from the viewing area. It is surprising for a bird with high site fidelity to move and potentially this behavior is related to the cumulative impacts of disturbance in the vicinity of the lek. In 2014, the birds started moving off the traditional lek and in 2015 they “completely” abandoned the traditional site. While we have tried to create a viewing opportunity that reduces the impacts of viewing on the grouse, it is likely that the presence of birders over the last 17 years has contributed to the behavior of the grouse. Nonetheless, the grouse are still visible from the viewing site, although much farther away than we have had the luxury of viewing them in the past (spotting scope is essential). The grouse have moved north in the meadow, in an area where the willows are denser so viewing obstruction is significant. They have also moved to the east and up on top of the sagebrush ridge. While the birds may be 1 km or more away from the viewing site, it is still possible to see them fairly well with a spotting scope. They are often well lit on exposed sites.

Sisk-a-dee and its partners are concerned that birders begin to deviate from the viewing protocols established to protect the Gunnison Sage-grouse. Many conservation groups including birding organizations supported the recent listing of the Gunnison Sage-grouse as a Threatened Species. I am encouraging all of you to conduct Gunnison Sage-grouse viewing with the utmost integrity of ethics. Currently there are less than 5,000 Gunnison Sage-grouse in existence world-wide with 87% in the Gunnison Basin. The loss of one lek is a substantial blow. One lek was previously depleted due to lek viewing activities. If the Waunita lek continues to fade and the birds move farther away from their traditional lek, it is very unlikely that another watchable wildlife site will be established. The birding community advocates for grouse protection and all are ambassadors for the Gunnison Sage-grouse.

Thank you for your consideration of our 17 year effort to protect one of North America's rarest birds.

Please feel free to contact Sisk-a-dee at 970-641-3959 or if you would like to discuss the issue or have questions about your visit. As in the past, a viewing trailer is available for reservation or you can view the lek from your vehicle starting at least one hour before sunrise from 1 April to 15 May. Please keep in mind that the viewing site opens on April 1 and no viewing is permitted at the site or along the county road prior to that date. No overnight camping is allowed at the site.

The Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site is managed cooperatively by Sisk-a-dee, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee, and Gunnison County, including the sheriff’s department.

Important viewing policies include:

  1. 1. Gunnison County has installed No Parking signs along County Road 887 north of the viewing site. Please refrain from driving north of the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site parking area to observe grouse from the side of the road. No Parking laws will be enforced in early mornings by the Gunnison County Sherriff’s office. County, state and federal law enforcement are cooperating and will be present throughout the viewing season to enforce parking policies, overnight camping prohibition, and wildlife harassment statutes.
  2. 2. To protect the Gunnison Sage-grouse from disturbance, the viewing site will be closed to viewing two days each week in 2018. The 2018 CLOSED DATES are as follows:

April 2
April 3
April 12
April 13
April 20
April 21
April 24
April 25
May 3
May 4
May 9
May 10

Thank you for helping us maintain the opportunity to view the magical Gunnison sage-grouse. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Patrick Magee!
Sisk-a-dee, Director
970-641-3959 or


Mission Statement:
Sisk-a-dee was founded in 2000 to promote the implementation of the Gunnison Sage-grouse Conservation Plan within the Gunnison Basin, Colorado.

Sisk-a-dee is the only organization completely dedicated to the conservation of the Gunnison Sage-grouse. The Gunnison Basin holds the largest remaining population of Gunnison Sage-grouse in the world. As the grouse have declined over the last half century, concerned land managers, environmentalists, and landowners developed a Conservation Plan (1995) to restore habitat and populations. Sisk-a-dee has worked cooperatively, first, with the Gunnison Sage-grouse Working Group and now with the Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee as well as other partners to identify the biological and cultural challenges facing the grouse. Sisk-a-dee has sought coordination and strategic planning in the implementation process. Sisk-a-dee works with county, state and federal agencies, including Western State Colorado University, and other non-profit organizations, as well as landowners.  

Sisk-a-dee has coordinated the Watchable Wildlife Program for Gunnison Sage-grouse since 2001 in cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The Conservation Plan recognizes recreational use of the Gunnison Sage-grouse during the spring lekking season as a viable human activity, but as a potential impact on grouse population status. Since 2000, when the Gunnison Sage-grouse gained species recognition, birders from many parts of the world have visited Gunnison in order to view the grouse. Sisk-a-dee works collaboratively with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, Western State Colorado University, and the Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee to develop protocols for viewing and for monitoring and managing the basin's Watchable Wildlife Program. Currently, Sisk-a-dee works closely with Western State Colorado University to provide a well monitored viewing site for the public and for commercial groups. Students and others are present on the site every morning during the spring viewing season. They also collect data on grouse numbers and behaviors and collect data on human numbers and behaviors. These dedicated individuals also enrich the experience of visitors.

News: Gunnison Sage-grouse
listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act on 12 November, 2014.


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