Biologist uses romantic ‘fembot’ to learn about sage-grouse

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photo: robot Greater sage-grouseA bird robot named Snooki is helping biologists learn about the Greater Sage-Grouse, a species that is threatened in Colorado.

Gail Patricelli, a biologist from the University of California Davis, constructed a remote-controlled sage-grouse look-alike with a built-in camera to give scientists a bird's-eye view through which to study the animals.

Patricelli's research is intended to inform protection of the Greater Sage-Grouse. The imperiled bird only occupies about 50 percent of its original sagebrush habitat in Colorado and other western states. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to list it as endangered, and has until fall 2015 to decide.

Meanwhile, politicians have proposed legislative alternatives to an endangered-species listing. Farmers, the energy industry and hunters also favor localized protection plans rather than a federal listing.