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Idaho Fish and Game

Sage Grouse Trend Upward

Sage grouse have recently shown a slight increase in numbers across Idaho after years of decline. Sage grouse program manager Tom Hemker told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at its March meeting in Boise that statewide chick production had been good in three of the last six years, poor in the other three since 1996. The overall trend in numbers, however, showed an increase. In last fall's hunting season, 7,013 sage grouse were taken by about 5,333 hunters in 12,135 hunter days. The 2001 take amounts to five to 10 percent of the population, Hemker noted. Counts on sage grouse leks (spring dancing and breeding grounds) show an increase in areas where the hunting season is 23 days, in areas with a seven-day season, and where there is no hunting at all. Hemker said research in Idaho has shown no difference in the numbers of adult hens taken by hunters in dry falls versus wet falls. A theory popular before the research was done said hens would take their broods to the remaining wet areas when autumn conditions are dry, making the birds more vulnerable to hunting. In an update on a predator removal research project, Hemker said two areas in the Owyhees, two near Twin Falls and two in eastern Idaho will be studied. Wildlife Services, a federal agency, will begin predator removal in early April on three areas for two years, then a different three areas for two years. Hemker added that fire, loss of sagebrush and the influx of cheatgrass are major limiting factors in the recovery of sage grouse numbers in Idaho.