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US government proposes endangered species status for sage grouse in Nevada and California


A red sandstone formation named 'Elephant Rock' is pictured at the Valley of Fire State Park in Carson City, Nev., on April 20, 2009.



The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed endangered species status for greater sage grouse living in Nevada and California.

After a 60-day comment period, a final decision on the bird’s status will be announced next year.

The federal government is also looking into proposing endangered species status for sage grouse that live in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The sage grouse, sometimes called the “prairie chicken,” is a charismatic bird known for the complicated strutting dance the male birds perform when courting females.

The species eats sagebrush, which is disappearing as its desert habitat is being developed.

Only an estimated 5,000 sage grouse are believed to be left in Nevada and California due to invasive species and energy development in the region, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Non-native pinyon pine and juniper trees introduced to the region and power lines have also given raptors, which eat the grouse, a better perch from which to pounce on their prey, Ted Koch, Nevada state supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said.

"It's not the 11th hour for sage grouse here, but it is maybe the 10th hour," Koch said. "And that's good news. It means we have some time and space to turn things around."

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