The Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved a hunting season for sage grouse Thursday even though federal wildlife officials say listing under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.
The commission followed the recommendation of its biologists in approving a one week season beginning Sept. 15 with a limit of one bird per day. Don Kemner, a wildlife biologists told the commission that would be “conservative.”
Last year hunters killed 2,000 of the birds that are dependent on sage grouse for their survival. Hundreds of thousands of prime sage grouse habitat has burned up over the last two decades and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by 2015 whether to list it as threatened.
Since the bird lives in 11 states in the West and listing could dramatically limit development, more people than usual are watching Fish and Game’s hunting decisions for it.
Kemner said the kill last year represented about 4 percent of the statewide sage grouse population, about 80,000 birds. For most game birds hunting is compensatory, that is the birds that are killed likely would have died of other causes and so the population isn’t hurt.
But if more than 5 percent of sage grouse are killed, it becomes additive, in other words it reduces the population, Kemner said.
So based on sustained yield management, the idea that you take all of the game you can without hurting the population, Fish and Game says the conservative hunting season makes sense.