Girl in the Woods
By Brookelyn Bellinger
Girl in the Woods
Brookelyn Bellinger
Q: It seems like I can often walk
right up to a ptarmigan or a
grouse if I spot one in my yard.
Why are they so dumb?

A: Thanks for this question. I too
have often wondered how these
game birds survive at all when
they seem so easy to “catch”. Of
course as soon as I pick up a .22
they become instinctively harder
targets! I did try to snag a grouse
last fall with my hands just to see
if I could do it. Again, it was
smarter than I gave it credit for.
At the last moment it blasted out
from where it had been holding,
and I never even got close to
catching it. Ultimately, their
“freeze and hold” defense works
due to their incredible ability to
blend with their environment.
This keeps them safe when
predators come around.  
To help answer questions like this
about these common game birds,
the Alaska Department of Fish
and Game has recently updated a
popular guide about them. The
Grouse and Ptarmigan of Alaska
“… is for people who really want
to know about grouse and
ptarmigan,” said Mike Taras, an
educator with Fish and Game. “It’
s a natural history book, not a
bird guide. It’s really for
somebody who wants to learn
more about them than they can
from a bird (field identification)
guide.”  
This 42-page booklet, The Grouse
and Ptarmigan of Alaska: A
guide to their identification,
habits and habitat, offers details
on willow, rock and white-tailed
ptarmigan, and blue, spruce,
sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse.
The guide is available at no
charge at select Fish and Game
offices or by contacting Mike
Taras by e-mail with your full
name and address for a free copy:
mike.taras@alaska.gov.
Read all about it...

Brookelyn pens a
bi-weekly column
for the Fairbanks
Daily News-Miner!

Her column answers questions
about all things Alaskan~ the
outdoors, hunting, fishing,
Alaskan life, events and
interesting people. Look for
her column in the "Sundays"
section of the Sunday
newspaper, every other week.
To send Brookelyn a question, click here!