Idaho’s sage-grouse numbers have dropped 52% since the federal government decided not to list the birds as an endangered species in the fall of 2015.
It’s not yet clear whether the three-year decline is part of a cyclical pattern or indicative of a more serious issue, but the Idaho Statesman reports the trend could force state and federal wildlife and land managers to take a closer look at how sage grouse are faring in Idaho and other western states.
Under Idaho’s sage grouse management plan, wildlife managers must work to determine the cause of population declines and come up with an appropriate response any time numbers drop below a certain level. Idaho Fish and Game biologist Ann Moser says it looks populations are low enough in several parts of Idaho to trigger the plan.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimates that there are between 200,000 and 500,000 sage grouse, most of them in Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Colorado.