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Why sage grouse could become the next spotted owl | Washington Post

Chris Merkord

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A male sage grouse fights for the attention of female sage grouse southwest of Rawlins, Wyo., in May 2008. (Jerrett Raffety/Rawlins Daily Times via AP)
August 18 

By Darryl Fears


On the vast fields of sagebrush across the West, more male members of a uniquely American bird called the greater sage grouse are performing a dance that went out of style for humans long ago: the funky chicken.


Scientists who undertook a glorified head count of the troubled chicken-like sage grouse found that the number of males shaking their tail feathers to attract females on wide open clearings in the brush called leks increased by more than 60 percent since 2013. A survey released Monday by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies counted more than 80,000 males in a census earlier this year.


This was hailed as good news by the wildlife agencies and various groups working to conserve the sage grouse, which suffered dramatic population declines as humans invaded its habitat. But as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to determine whether to list the animal as threatened or endangered by Sept. 30 — a designation that 11 states that cover the 165-million-acre sagebrush habitat oppose — there are questions about the timing of the positive development, and its influence on that decision.


Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/08/18/more-male-sage-grouse-are-dancing-the-funky-chicken-out-west-a-positive-sign/

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