Friendly area grouse attracted to wood splitter

Apparently, Benni the house grouse at Sioux Creek Golf Course near Chetek isn’t the only grouse in the region that has developed a taste for humans.

I wrote late last month about Benni, a wild ruffed grouse who has become a hit with Sioux Creek members by showing up nearly every morning and following around owner Lee Johnson and assistant superintendent Mitch Thompson as they maintain the course.

They theorized the bird, which sometimes even climbs on Johnson, seemed to be attracted to the putt-putt-putt sound of some of the machinery, and a pair of wildlife experts confirmed that such a strange connection is reported on occasion. The idea is that the sound is similar to a drumming grouse.

After reading my story, Dick Zeithaml of the town of Tainter in Dunn County emailed that he too has had close encounters with a friendly grouse. The bird, which Zeithaml named Thumper, has visited him each spring in the woods for the past three or four years.

“Now I know that it’s in response to the putt-putt-putt sound of my wood splitter!” Zeithaml wrote.

While Zeithaml indicated Thumper doesn’t appear to be as friendly as Benni, the Dunn County bird comes close to Zeithaml without hesitation.

“When I shut the wood splitter off, I hear him thumping,” he said. “I, too, talk with him and he’s not afraid.”

I guess the old saying is correct: Nature does work in mysterious ways.


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