Even though the number of strutting males observed during the spring sage grouse survey was up 15 percent from last year, the population remains well below management objectives. Therefore, the sage grouse hunting season will remain closed in 2012.
Aaron Robinson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department upland game bird biologist, said biologists counted 72 males on 12 active strutting grounds. Last year, 63 males were counted on 12 active lakes in the southwest.
“This is great news,” Robinson said. “The population has shown it can possibly come back given the right conditions.”
The number of males counted on lakes each spring has gradually declined since 2000. In 2008, spring counts dropped dramatically throughout North Dakota’s sage grouse range due to West Nile Virus.
“Numerous conservation efforts have taken place in the past four years which will hopefully help the population recover,” Robinson said.
Sage grouse management in North Dakota and the entire range of 11 western states is a collaborative effort, Robinson said. “We manage this species as a group and make decisions based on scientific information, ultimately to maintain an iconic western species for future generations,” he added.
Sage grouse are North Dakota’s largest native upland game bird. They are found in extreme southwestern North Dakota, primarily in Bowman and Slope counties.