Viewing Gunnison Sage-grouse
Waunita Lek Watchable Wildlife Site
The only public viewing site for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado is the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site located approximately 19 miles east of Gunnison, Colorado. Please contact Sisk-a-dee at (970) 641-3959 for current information about viewing the Gunnison grouse. Sisk-a-dee, an organization that works collaboratively with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee, maintains an excellent viewing website with the most recent viewing information, maps, and viewing protocols. The Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site is monitored daily by volunteers from Sisk-a-dee, Western State Colorado University and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Volunteers count birds, monitor disturbances, and educate visitors about responsible wildlife viewing.
When viewing Gunnison sage-grouse, please keep in mind that they are highly sensitive to human disturbance. Loud, unusual sounds such as car doors slamming, radios, human voices, dogs, and people walking through brush can cause the birds to fly off. Continual disturbances can ultimately result in these birds permanently abandoning their traditional lek sites. Despite protocol implementation, birds trend toward flushing earlier and earlier since the lek site was established. While the Gunnison Basin population as a whole tends to be relatively stable, the Waunita lek is on a significant downward trend (Hicks and Magee 2012, unpublished report). It is difficult to reconcile optimal viewing opportunities with changing bird behavior and lower relative abundance; therefore, it is extremely important that visitors follow lek viewing protocol to minimize impacts.
To reduce your impact, arrive at the lek viewing area well before sunrise (at least one hour prior) and view the birds from inside your vehicle using a spotting scope or binoculars. It is essential that you remain inside your vehicle and remain as quiet as possible. Also, please refrain from starting up your vehicle and leaving the area until after the birds have completed their morning display. Your efforts will help reduce any unnecessary stress on the birds and will provide for a better viewing experience for yourself and others.
View at the Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site. © Marcella Fremgen.
Waunita Watchable Wildlife Site viewing trailer. © Pat Magee, Jeff Gordon
Volunteer effort is very important to the Waunita Site. Annually, volunteers put in a combined 300-400 hours to lead commercial viewing groups, monitor the birds and monitor visitors. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Dr. Patrick Magee (email@example.com).
Photographing Gunnison Sage-grouse
Photographing Gunnison sage-grouse has become a popular request among wildlife and/or avian photographers. Photography, audio recording and video recording access is limited to two photographers per lek season. For more information about photographing the Gunnison sage-grouse, contact Jim Cochran at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 641-7604. Applications must be submitted by February 1 each year.
For information about traveling to Gunnison and finding accommodations, please visit the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association website or call (800) 814-7988.