No sage grouse season in North Dakota againNorth Dakota will not have a sage grouse hunting season again this year because of low bird numbers, the state Game and Fish Department said.
BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota will not have a sage grouse hunting season again this year because of low bird numbers, the state Game and Fish Department said.
A spring survey indicates that the number of strutting males remains below management goals. Biologists counted a record low 63 males on 12 active strutting grounds, said Aaron Robinson, an upland game bird biologist. Last year, 66 males were counted on 15 active leks in the southwest part of the state, where the grouse live.
Robinson said this year’s survey results were surprising.
“Given the increased population in sharp-tailed grouse this year in the southwest, we were expecting the same by sage grouse,” he said in a statement issued Monday.
The number of sage grouse males in North Dakota has declined since 2000. In 2008, hunting was closed in the state for first time in nearly half a century after a steep drop in the sage grouse population. Officials don’t know the reason for the decline but say it might have been tied to West Nile virus. There is no indication that hunting led to the decline, they said.
“Our numbers are declining at a consistent rate of about 5 percent a year,” Robinson said.
Under the state’s sage grouse management plan, officials are not likely to consider another hunting season until the breeding population of males rises above 100.