- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana wildlife officials are proposing to cancel sage grouse hunting this fall as populations of the large upland game bird continue to decline.

Last year’s count of male birds on sage grouse breeding grounds was the lowest recorded since 1980.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said Monday that the closure will be considered by commissioners at their Thursday meeting.

Officials would consider re-opening hunting next year if the bird’s numbers appear to be rebounding.

Sage grouse are ground-dwelling birds known for their elaborate mating rituals. Found in 11 states and two provinces, they have suffered a steep decline in recent decades.

Causes include disease, the conversion of prairie lands for agricultural and residential development, and pressure from the oil and gas industry.