Ruffed Grouse Gets A Second Chance

By Fern Wexler and Ashley Lema

In January, a Ruffed Grouse made a crash landing outside of Canyon Creek Middle School in Washougal, Washington. A large raptor was seen flying away after the bird was downed, so we believe they may have just escaped becoming a meal! Predation is an inherent risk of living in the wild, and we would never recommend interrupting natural processes, but when an animal is left hurt and the predator is gone, we are glad to lend a helping hand. The grouse was quickly brought to the Wildlife Care Center by a teacher at the school who made the long drive after work—we are always so appreciative of everyone who takes the time out of their day to help a wild animal.

Ruffed Grouse getting examined in the WCC
The Ruffed Grouse during an examination.

Our initial examination was brief because the grouse was extremely stressed, but we knew one thing for sure right away—they could fly! They burst from the top of the cardboard box once inside our hospital, immediately searching for a way out. We always wish we could explain that we’re here to help, but alas… Humans continue to both look and sound like Godzilla. Once restrained, we were able to find a few lacerations and puncture wounds on the bird’s body. There was enough damage to need stitches, so we cleaned and covered the wounds with bandages until our veterinarian could work some magic. We also provided medication to help with the pain of the injuries, as well as to fight infection that would likely occur if untreated.

A close up of the Ruffed Grouse’s intricate feather pattern.

Being held captive in a hospital is inherently stressful for wild animals, and everyone worked hard to be quiet and efficient when it came to the care of this nervous bird. Whether we were redressing wounds, administering medications, checking stitches, or just cleaning and feeding, we were always conscious of the animals’ state—fear.  Even with all these precautions, this grouse was so flighty that they hit the top of their indoor enclosure and opened a new wound on the top of their head that also had to be closed. This is an excellent representation of why we only take photos during the course of treatment. There is no good reason to disturb a healing patient, especially one so susceptible to stress, just to take a picture of them. As soon as we were able to, we moved the Ruffed Grouse to a larger outdoor enclosure, where they were given many natural places to hide so they could feel safe and finish out their recovery.

Thankfully the frantic birds’ wounds healed quickly and they were able to be released back to their home the first week of February! Ruffed Grouse are an uncommon visitor to the Wildlife Care Center—in fact, the last one to be released was all the way back in 2011! These birds are typically very secretive in their native habitat of dense forests, but they are a common game bird throughout their range in the northern United States and Canada. They were actually one of the first birds to ever receive legal protection in the United States, when they were given a no hunting season in New York in 1708, making them as important a part of birding history in America as they are a part of the ecosystems they fit into. Now that this grouse has been returned to Washougal, they will likely spend their time sneaking through the underbrush, preventing the overgrowth of certain plants by eating fibers few other birds are able to digest.

What to Do If You Find an Injured, Ill, or Orphaned Animal

    • The best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. Do not offer food or water.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.


We’re building a new Wildlife Care Center and need your help! If you would like to help injured and orphaned wildlife, please consider joining our crowdfunding campaign and making a gift to make this new facility a reality. We’re doubling the square footage, adding a surgical suite, and making many more important changes to provide the best care for our patients. Learn more at ForPortlandBird Alliance of

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your support helps us save lives.