Jerry Davis: DNR's Scott Walter moves on to RGS


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RGS in the News

The following article is about new RGS/AWS regional biologist, Dr. Scott Walter.

Scott Walter and his lab

Original article by JERRY DAVIS For the State Journal published August 11, 2015 here: copied below on Aug. 11, 2015.

It seems that no matter how many career moves Scott Walter makes, his new jobs all feature listening for ruffed grouse drumming and flushing.

His recent appointment may actually put him in the best position to help improve habitat and eventually bring about an increase in this handsome, forest-dwelling game bird that is 3-4 times larger than a bobwhite quail.

The Ruffed Grouse Society and the American Woodcock Society (sister organizations) recently announced that Walter has accepted a regional biologist position covering Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa with RGS/AWS. Walter will be responsible for forest management efforts of RGS by working with landowners and government agencies to help ensure forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife.

“The exciting thing is the interaction at a number of levels to promote active forest management,” he said. “I’ll be available to do walk-throughs on wooded land and work on development management plans on public and private lands.”

After earning BS, MS and PhD degrees from several Wisconsin universities (Beloit College and UW) in science and wildlife ecology, he taught and did research at UW-Richland in Richland County from 1999 through 2011. From 2011 to 2015, Walter was the upland game bird ecologist and farm bill coordinator in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Walter will continue to reside on his six-generation Richland County farm where he and his wife, Erica, first experienced ruffed grouse drumming and began practicing active forestry.

“This spring my wife did hear a male grouse drumming about 30 yards into the woods in an area we improved,” Walter said. “I regenerated small clones of aspen and practiced oak harvesting in this and other areas.

“With ruffed grouse it’s a matter of ‘build it and they will come’ strategy. It works best with fairly large scale areas. That’s where the impacts are most meaningful.”

Ruffed grouse need a mosaic of old and young forests, biologists, including Walter, say.

Even though the ruffed grouse populations in southern Wisconsin have dropped during the last 40 years, improvements to the habitat can be managed for both timber and wildlife, Walter believes.

“If the habitat is there, the grouse will come. They are their own best indicator species of the habitat. If the birds are there, that tells us the habitat is right,” Walter said.

Supplemental introductions of grouse to a habitat are usually not practiced, or successful, unless the habitat is favorable.

“Habitat improvement for grouse works best if there are fairly large areas involved,” Walter said. “To make those areas meaningful in terms of population improvements, pulling several landowners together to create young forest habitat is necessary.”

Missouri transplanted about 4,000 grouse into areas of dwindling populations several decade ago. Some of those birds came from Wisconsin. Still, Missouri closed its grouse season in 2010.

Even though there are more acres of forest in southern Wisconsin than there were 60 years ago, large tracts of dense young forest is what grouse, woodcock and many other birds, and wildlife, need.

Simply putting grouse in the wrong forest habitat almost never works.

Mission Statement

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America's foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

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