Cancellation of Mont. grouse hunt proposed

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife commissioners will consider a proposal Thursday to cancel sage grouse hunting in Montana this fall as populations of the large upland game bird decline.

Last year’s count of male birds on sage grouse breeding grounds was the lowest recorded since 1980.

During the 2012 season, the most recent year available, 2,800 sage grouse were shot across Montana. More than 12,000 hunters participated.

The ground-dwelling birds are known for their elaborate mating rituals. Found in 11 states and two provinces, they have suffered a steep decline in recent decades.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a 2015 deadline to decide if the birds need protection under the Endangered Species Act. States across the West have scrambled to come up with conservation measures in hopes of avoiding a federal listing.