Court Upholds Endangered Species List Protections For Rare Gunnison Sage Group

<p>Steve Fairbairn/USFWS</p>
<p>Male sage-grouse on a lek in Butte County, South Dakota.</p>
Photo: Wildsounds | Sage Grouse - USFWS
Male sage-grouse on a lek in Butte County, South Dakota.

A rare bird found only in Colorado and Utah will stay on the endangered species list, at least for now.

A federal judge in Denver on Friday upheld a 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Gunnison sage grouse as a threatened species.

State and county governments in Colorado and Utah had challenged the decision. Colorado officials said they haven't decided whether to appeal.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said only about 4,700 Gunnison sage grouse remained in 2014.

The Gunnison grouse is related to the larger and more numerous greater sage grouse.

Greater sage grouse can be up to 2 feet tall and weigh 5 pounds. The Gunnison birds are about one-third smaller.

Both are ground-dwelling birds known for the males' elaborate mating rituals.