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No sage grouse hunting in ND again this year

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Sage grouse hunting will remain closed in North Dakota for a seventh straight year.

The Game and Fish Department says a spring survey found a record-low 31 males on six active strutting grounds. Last year, 50 males were counted on 11 active leks.

Upland game bird biologist Aaron Robinson says South Dakota and eastern Montana had similar declines this year. He says the last time there was such a drastic decline was in 2007-08, because of West Nile virus. He says officials aren't sure if West Nile is to blame this time.

Far southwestern North Dakota is on the edge of the sage grouse's historic range. The bird's population in that area peaked at 542 males in 1953, and has steadily declined in the past three decades.