Aggrousive bird on Montane Trail

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A male dusky grouse is acting aggressively towards hikers and bikers along the busy Montane Traverse trail in Canmore, prompting provincial wildlife officials to put up warning signs in the area.

Over the past week, several bikers and hikers have come across the dusky grouse, also known as a blue grouse, likely exhibiting aggressive behaviour because it’s the beginning of the breeding season.

It’s been attacking people and chasing them for at least 100 metres.

“It is likely associated with the mating season which is right about now,” said John Paczkowski, a wildlife ecologist with Alberta Parks in Kananaskis Country. “Horny males do stupid things. It might be attacking as a form of dominance.”

Alberta Parks put up warning signs on Tuesday (April 19) and planned to monitor the situation over the coming days.

Paczkowski said areas have been closed for aggressive grouse in the past in Kananaskis Country, noting it’s not uncommon for closures to be put in place to protect birds, including nesting owls at Grassi Lakes.

“We will monitor the situation and see if it merits a closure,” said Paczkowski.

In Alberta, blue grouse occur only in the foothills and mountains. They spend their winters in high coniferous forests near treeline.

In spring, blue grouse move down to lightly wooded mountain valleys or foothills.

Choosing an open area, the male sets up a territory, strutting and hooting to announce his presence and attract females. Yellow-to-orange eye combs are enlarged, and tail feathers are fanned.

After mating, the hen chooses a nest site, often at the base of a tree or under a log. She lays from five to 10 eggs. Incubation takes about 25 days and when hatched, the brood leaves the nest with the hen.

Conifer needles and buds make up about 95 per cent of the blue grouse winter diet.

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