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Montana considers scaling back sage grouse hunt

By Associated Press
Published On: Jul 09 2014 02:26:30 PM MDT
SAGE GROUSE
HELENA, Mont. -

Montana wildlife regulators are considering severely limiting this year's sage grouse hunting season.
    
The Fish and Wildlife Commission votes Thursday on the plan to close hunting in all or parts of 32 counties across northern, eastern and southern Montana.
    
That would leave a swath of 13 counties across the central part of the state and six southwestern counties open from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.
    
This spring's count of birds on sage-grouse breeding grounds was the lowest since 1980. The federal government is considering listing it as a threatened or endangered species next year.
    
Fish, Wildlife and Parks initially proposed canceling the 2014 hunt, but reconsidered after pushback from hunters and analyzing the final population data.
    
Hunters say the population declines are largely driven by loss of habitat, not hunting.