PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Environmental advocates in Oregon have criticized a state plan to kill more than 1,000 ravens to help save the greater sage grouse, officials said.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife applied for permits in 2018 to kill up to 500 ravens per year over a three-year period to reduce the number preying upon greater sage grouse eggs, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday.

The strategy of putting poisoned chicken eggs in bait boxes in northeastern Oregon's Baker County is flawed, environmentalists said.

Environmental groups including Oregon Wild, The Humane Society and the Center for Biological Diversity oppose the plan.

The strategy is part of "an unfortunate pattern of wildlife agencies scapegoating one wildlife species for the decline of another" without addressing primary causes of decline, said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Portland Audubon Society.

Population estimates show the sage grouse has declined by 30% across its native range, which includes 11 western states and parts of Canada. In Oregon where ravens are targeted, the grouse population has fallen by 75% since 2005.

Studies showing ravens' effect on sage grouse nesting were conducted in Nevada, and Oregon "has not produced adequate science to support killing ravens," Sallinger wrote on the Portland Audubon website.

Environmentalists also said many more poisoned eggs need to be distributed than the number of ravens targeted, creating the potential to kill other species.

The poison was chosen because it is lethal to ravens, crows and gulls and only moderately toxic to raptors and some other birds with almost no effect on mammals, said Michelle Dennehy, a wildlife agency spokeswoman.

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