Calgary Zoo to begin a captive breeding program for Greater Sage Grouse

Posted by on 26. January 2014 in Blog / Journal, Conservation, News & Events | Comments Off on Calgary Zoo to begin a captive breeding program for Greater Sage Grouse

Greater Sage Grouse populations are at critically low numbers in Canada. The estimated population size is less than 100 birds, most of them can be found in the grasslands of southwest Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta. In December of 2013, Environment Canada published the first ever Emergency Order under the Species at Risk Act to protect the Greater Sage Grouse on crown lands (see the related post, A step in the right direction). Later that month, Environment Canada released a proposal for the Amended Recovery Strategy for this species.

Two Greater Sage Grouse males displaying on lek (mating grounds) near Zortman, Montana.

Two Greater Sage Grouse males displaying on lek (mating grounds) near Zortman, Montana. This lek has more breeding birds than it could be found in all of Alberta.


There have been previous attempts to supplement the Canadian population by bringing in adult birds from Montana, where the Sage Grouse is more abundant. Now, Calgary Zoo will begin a captive breeding and rearing program for this endangered species, in attempt to help stabilize the population numbers. The program will receive financial help from the Canadian Government in the amount of $2.1 million over the next 10 years. The Government of Alberta allocated a matching contribution of $2.1 million for the same program.

The Calgary Zoo has had previous experience contributing to the recovery strategies for endangered species in Canada. Over the last few years, the Zoo employees took part in reintroduction and monitoring of Black-footed Ferrets in Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan, captive breeding programs for Whooping Cranes, and many other successful initiatives. Watch a short video about the release of Black-footed Ferrets in Grasslands National Park.

Black-footed ferret release in Grasslands National Park

Parks Canada employee Krista Bekker releases a black-footed ferret at Dixon ranch. Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Here is a press release from the Environment Canada about the Greater Sage Grouse captive breeding program:

Working Together to Protect the Greater Sage-Grouse

Government of Canada, Government of Alberta and the Calgary Zoo enter into multi-million dollar partnership for new program

January 23, 2014 – Calgary, Alberta

Minister Aglukkaq has announced a $2.1 million contribution for the Calgary Zoo’s new captive breeding and rearing program for the Greater Sage-Grouse. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting and preserving our rich biodiversity, as seen in the $25 million/year investment for species at risk in Economic Action Plan 2012. This program is breaking new ground—this will be the first time that Sage-Grouse have been bred and raised in captivity in Canada.

This program is the next step in a series of actions the federal and provincial governments are taking to protect and bring back the Greater Sage-Grouse in Canada.

On December 4th, the federal government published an Emergency Order to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse across 1700 km2 of crown lands in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  On December 20th the proposed Amended Recovery Strategy for Greater Sage?Grouse was published, which outlines the state of the species, provides information about the species and population objectives, and identifies new critical habitat.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2012, there were estimated to be between 93-138 adult birds in Canada. The population has declined by 98 percent since 1988.
  • The Sage-Grouse captive rearing and breeding program will cost a total of just over $5 million over 10 years.
  • The Government of Canada and the Calgary Zoo have been collaborating on endangered species recovery for decades.


“Our Government’s partnership with the Calgary Zoo in a captive breeding and reintroduction program is an important step to recovering the Greater Sage-Grouse in Canada. Our long-term goal is to establish a stable Sage-Grouse population in Canada through stewardship initiatives and partnerships.”

– The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council

“The Government of Alberta is proud to be supporting Sage-Grouse recovery in Alberta by contributing $2.1 million over 10 years towards the Greater Sage-Grouse captive breeding program at the Calgary Zoo. This is an important partnership with the Government of Canada and the Calgary Zoo because together we can help to protect the future of Alberta’s Sage-Grouse population.”

– The Honourable Robin Campbell, Minister of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

“The Calgary Zoo welcomes this joint funding on the part of the Alberta and Canadian ministries responsible for environmental issues. For several decades, the Calgary Zoo has played a key role in Canada, and globally, saving species at risk. We are very pleased to be leading the Sage-Grouse project with the financial support of our provincial and federal governments.”

– Dr. Clément Lanthier, President and CEO, Calgary Zoo

Background information:

Working Together to Protect the Greater Sage-Grouse (Environment Canada web site)


Jennifer Kennedy
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of the Environment

Pin It on Pinterest