Idaho Killing Birds to Save Other Birds

4K raven will die to save sage-grouse
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2014 11:59 AM CDT
In this April 15, 2008 file photo, a male sage grouse performs his "strut" near Rawlins, Wyo.   (AP Photo/Rawlins Daily Times, Jerret Raffety, File)

(Newser) – Ravens are getting the short end of the stick in Idaho, where officials have decided to kill thousands of the birds to protect the at-risk sage-grouse. The state plans on killing 4,000 ravens—which feed on sage-grouse eggs and chicks—over two years by destroying their nests, shooting them, and feeding them poisoned eggs, Reuters reports. Ravens are protected by federal law, but the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is considering whether the sage-grouse should be put on the endangered species list, gave Idaho a special permit. A similar plan has already been carried out in Nevada.

States are scrambling to keep the sage-grouse off the endangered species list; if it is deemed to be endangered, that could hurt the development of new oil and gas fields, wind farms, utility lines, and roads, and could put restrictions on how ranchers use public land where the birds live. Even so, not everyone is on board with Idaho's plan, with some opponents arguing human development is a far greater threat to the sage-grouse than ravens, as predators rank twelfth on a list of 19 factors aiding their decline. An alternative? Restoring sagebrush, bunch grasses, and wildflowers, a conservationist tells the Idaho Statesman.

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