Results from North Dakota's spring sage grouse survey indicate the number of strutting males observed remains well below management objectives. Therefore, the sage grouse hunting season will remain closed in 2009.
A record low 69 males were counted on 17 active strutting grounds. Last year, 77 males were counted on leks in the southwest.
The number of males counted on leks each spring has gradually declined since 2000. In 2008, spring counts dropped dramatically throughout North Dakota's sage grouse range. The specific cause of the decline was unknown, but West Nile virus was suspected. There is no indication that hunting has caused a decline in the population.
Management of sage grouse in North Dakota has followed a specific plan developed by a diverse group of participants. The plan outlines hunting harvest objectives for the species with a recommendation that the hunting season close if the spring census indicates fewer than 100 males in the population. When the spring breeding population increases above 100 males, North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists will recommend the season reopen.
Sage grouse are North Dakota's largest native upland game bird. They are found in extreme southwestern North Dakota, primarily in Bowman and Slope counties.