CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — State biologists in Wyoming say hunting is helping the greater sage grouse by providing critical data about the birds' numbers.

Sage grouse had an especially good breeding year in Wyoming. Each hen produced an average of 1.7 chicks, the best reproduction rate since 2005.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials say they know this because of hunting. Game and Fish asks sage grouse hunters to donate the wings of the birds they kill.

Biologists can determine the age and sex of birds killed by examining their wings.

Whether sage grouse hunting will continue in Wyoming and eight other states remains to be seen. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a court deadline of September, 2015, to decide whether to protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.