USA — State biologists say fires that burned across southern Idaho rangelands earlier this summer destroyed valuable sage grouse mating grounds.
Biologists with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game say at least 75 grouse mating grounds in prime habitat were destroyed by the Murphy Complex of fires.
In response, the agency issued emergency hunting changes last week. The rule changes include closures in some regions, limiting hunting in the Magic Valley north of the Snake River for just a week and capping bag limits at one bird per day.
The Murphy Complex is blamed for charring more than 1,000 square miles in southwest Idaho and northern Nevada.
The sage grouse is already facing population declines from development and another potential threat from West Nile virus.
In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a petition to list the bird as an endangered species. But environmentalists are challenging it in court.
A decision is pending in U.S. District Court in Boise.