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Wisconsin wildlife researchers detected West Nile virus in three of 16 ruffed grouse that were found sick or dead by citizens during the last three months of 2018.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the findings don’t confirm whether West Nile is having population-level impacts on ruffed grouse, but the agency issued a news release in light of broader research on the subject.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are jointly studying whether West Nile virus is suppressing ruffed grouse populations. The inquiry began after hunters in 2017 reported seeing far fewer birds than expected.

As part of the 2018 grouse seasons in all three states, hunters were asked to voluntarily submit samples from harvested birds. Charlotte Roy, grouse research scientist for the Minnesota DNR, said all three states and Pennsylvania sent their samples this month to the same laboratory in Georgia. Results aren’t expected at least until March, she said.

Of the approximately 1,000 combined samples, 273 came from Minnesota — the most of any state, she said. Roy was hoping for 400 samples, but she was pleased with the response from hunters in the first year of the three-year regional study.

Governor’s Turkey Opener

Gov. Tim Walz said Friday in Bloomington that he’ll make good on a campaign promise to stage the first-ever Governor’s Wild Turkey Opener.

Speaking to 400 invited guests at the annual DNR Roundtable, Walz jokingly boasted of being the “top shot” in Congress and later reminded reporters that he’s always been successful at the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener, held this year in Luverne. There’s also the Governor’s Deer Opener and the Governor’s Fishing Opener.

If Walz is going to start the tradition in 2019, the DNR will have to get moving. Jan. 25 is the lottery application deadline for early-season licenses. The first hunt starts April 17.