MADISON, Wis. — The state Department of Natural Resources board is considering an emergency rule to shorten Wisconsin's ruffed grouse season to protect the population.

Drumming activity declined 34% statewide from 2017 to 2018. Hunters took only 173,347 grouse last year, the lowest total in the 35 years the DNR has been surveying small-game hunters about their success.

The department says the decline's cause is unknown.

The season currently runs from mid-October through Dec. 8 in southeastern Wisconsin and from mid-September through Jan. 31 in the rest of the state.

The rule's description doesn't lay out new season end dates. DNR spokeswoman Sarah Hoye says the rule would affect only the out-state season, ending it Jan. 5 rather than Jan. 31.

The board is scheduled to vote on the rule description Tuesday. Approval would authorize the DNR to develop the rule language.