• sage-grouse calgary zoo

    A sage grouse walks though the Calgary Zoo's dedicated breeding facility. (Photo courtesy the Calgary Zoo)

Hope is on the horizon for Canada's beleaguered sage-grouse population. After falling to dangerously low numbers in 2015, the population's slight recent rebound could be bolstered by the Calgary Zoo's newly-opened breeding facility dedicated to saving the once-common prairie bird.

The Snyder-Wilson Family Greater Sage-Grouse Pavilion is a 31,000 square foot world-class centre which will focus on all aspects of captive breeding, including planting sage brush and other native vegetation, and have cameras to monitor the grouse.

“I see the greater sage-grouse as an iconic part of our Canadian heritage; a key component of our prairie ecosystem,” says Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, the director of conservation and science at the Calgary Zoo.

Greater sage-grouse are listed as threatened under the national Species at Risk Act (SARA), with factors such as habitat destruction and human development causing their wild populations to now inhabit only half of their historic range. In 2013 their wild population numbers decreased so much that a federal emergency order was enacted to protect them.

There are currently 18 sage-grouse in the zoo’s new facility.