common raven black bird

Common raven     Photo: Diliff/Wikimedia

To Kill a Black Bird

Idaho raven cull will help grouse

Although ravens are protected by federal law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently granted Idaho a permit to "conduct lethal control actions" on 4,000 ravens in the southern part of the state during the next two years.

Because ravens have an appetite for sage-grouse eggs and chicks, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game plans to cull the state's ravens in three areas during the sage-grouse nesting season (mid-March through mid-June). The ground-dwelling sage-grouse is currently a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection.

If these birds become protected, oil and gas developers, utility companies, and even wind farms could face development restrictions. Even ranchers with permits to graze livestock on public land could be affected.

But some are critical of Idaho's appraoch. As Reuters reports, Idaho wildlife officials cite human-caused habitat destruction and fragmentation as the greatest threats to the sage-grouse, with predation ranking 12 among 19 factors that contribute to the birds' decline.