There will be no sage grouse hunting season this year in South Dakota due to a continued decline in the bird's population.

According to the Associated Press, the Game, Fish and Parks Commission has decided to suspend the season, after a recommendation by state wildlife biologists.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes the bird as

a large, rounded-winged, ground-dwelling bird, up to 30 inches long and two feet tall, weighing from two to seven pounds.  It has a long, pointed tail with legs feathered to the base of the toes. Females are a mottled brown, black, and white. Males are larger and have a large white ruff around their neck and bright yellow air sacks on their breasts, which they inflate during their mating display.  The birds are found at elevations ranging from 4,000 to over 9,000 feet and are highly dependent on sagebrush for cover and food.

Last year only 35 hunters were licensed to hunt sage grouse and they managed to kill only nine birds.

Biologists are concerned over a continued decline in the number of male birds found in spring breeding grounds. They have been working with state wildlife officials, federal agencies and other states to prevent the bird from being added to the endangered species list.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the sage grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but has not acted because other species face "more immediate and sever extinction threats." Instead, the service placed the sage grouse on a list of species that are candidates for the list and plans to review the status of the bird annually.

Evidence suggests that the decline in population is the result of destruction and fragmentation of the bird's habitat.

The Associated Press Contributed to This Story

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