The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking Wyoming residents, especially landowners, to help with the management of the state’s sage grouse populations by immediately reporting dead sage grouse so they can be tested for West Nile virus.

Game and Fish says according to past research, sage grouse have low resistance to the disease and it's usually fatal to the birds. Evidence of West Nile virus has been reported in northeast Wyoming and in surrounding states, including a sage grouse in North Dakota.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s sage grouse program coordinator, Tom Christiansen, says there's no sign of a virus outbreak yet, but this year’s warm weather and precipitation has created conditions favorable to the mosquitoes which can carry the West Nile Virus.

“Warm nighttime temperatures are thought to enhance the ability of the West Nile virus to multiply in the gut of the mosquito. If conditions are warm between now and the end of August, we could see the virus show up this year,” Christiansen says.

Testing dead birds helps Game and Fish monitor the scope of the disease. Officials say the chance of getting the virus from handling a dead bird is remote, but if you're willing to collect the dead bird, they recommend you pick it up with an inverted plastic sack while wearing gloves. Then put that bag into another plastic bag, tie it up, and drop it at a Game and Fish Regional Office. They say if you can't immediately deliver it to the Game and Fish, it should be frozen.