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Environmentalists See Chance To Quash Idaho Raven-Killing Experiment

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A plan to poison 3,500 ravens in Idaho won’t proceed this year as state wildlife managers had hoped. The idea is to stop the ravens from eating the eggs of the imperilled sage grouse.

It would be a two-year experiment. Idaho Fish and Game wants to plant 14,000 pesticide-laced, hard-boiled chicken eggs in parts of the state where sage grouse are rapidly declining.

But the raven-killing pesticide has to be administered by wildlife agents with the USDA and a federal environmental assessment won’t be completed in time to distribute the lethal eggs this year.

Todd Tucci, an attorney with the Boise-based Advocates for the West, said the delay will give the firm more time to raise concerns -- with other federal agencies and with the public.

“And the more people find out about this project, the more alarmed they’re going to be,” he said.

Conservation groups call it a ridiculous scheme. An online petition against the planhas received more than 60,000 signatures. 

In April, Advocates for the West and six other groups sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack condemning the plan. They argue poisoning ravens won’t stop the deterioration of sage grouse habitat and could turn other wildlife, like owls, into collateral damage.

Western states are working against the clock to keep the odd-looking sage grouse off the endangered species list -- a move likely to trigger federal grazing restrictions.

Fish and Game officials say raven populations, on the other hand, are booming. Unlike the sage grouse, they thrive on human development and its byproducts -- things like roadkill, livestock carcasses, powerpoles, and landfills. In addition to the ravens killed by poisoning, Idaho Fish and Game would kill another 500 ravens over two years by hunting the bird and destroying their eggs.