As you’ll remember, Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources unanimously passed its sandhill crane hunting proposal. All eight hunters on the commission think it’s a good idea to shoot cranes in Kentucky. The proposal now goes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for final approval or denial. The public comment period on the Kentucky sandhill crane hunting proposal ends AUGUST 1 2011. Here are six top reasons to protest this hunt. You’ll find snail and email addresses at the bottom, where you can send your comments. Please act now. If you love the rolling purr of sandhill cranes, let the Feds hear your squawk NOW!

photo by Vickie Henderson

 Six Top Reasons to Protest Eastern Flyway Crane Hunting:

  1. Sandhill cranes have a very low recruitment rate. Our best studies show one in three pairs of nesting cranes successfully producing one fledgling. Remember, they were hunted nearly to extinction in the East before. Why put additional pressure on a recovering species?
  2. Current methods of counting the Eastern flyway population are badly flawed, conducted on a volunteer basis and poorly coordinated. A good freezeup can send Central flyway birds into the Eastern flyway, bloating apparent numbers by tens of thousands, only to have them all disappear the next winter.
  3. Sandhill cranes look a lot like endangered whooping cranes in questionable light, as at dawn and dusk, when they’re most likely to be shot. The eastern population of migratory whooping cranes exists only because of the Herculean efforts of crane conservationists. Why allow hunters to shoot right into the middle of them? Recreational shooting claimed five of our one hundred precious Eastern whooping cranes in the past winter in states without crane seasons. Four were chicks, still clad in brown plumage. One was “Superdad,” one of the few successful breeding whooping cranes in the entire eastern population. A hunting season on sandhill cranes vastly increases the chance that collateral kill of endangered whooping cranes will occur. We’ve only got 400 on the planet. Why increase the odds against them? (Look quickly at the picture at the bottom of this post to see how difficult it can be to discern which species a crane is.)
  4. Eastern flyway breeding populations appear to be maxing out their available habitat, and are subject to abundant natural limitations such as ground predation by coyotes, foxes, raccoons and opossums. The handful of pairs that are attempting to nest in Ohio appear to winter in Tennessee. What if they’re shot? Could Ohio lose its entire pioneer breeding population?
  5. The demonstrated value of live cranes to ecotourism is immense. Vastly more people enjoy simply watching cranes than shooting them. Wildlife managers’ assertions that crane hunting outside refuges will concentrate the birds inside refuges, “improving viewing opportunities for passive wildlife enthusiasts” absurdly miss the point that concentrating birds on refuges isn’t good for the birds, and insult the sensibilities of wildlife watchers.
  6. The imposition of a hunting season on a widely-revered, charismatic, long-lived and visually compelling bird like a crane sets up an artificial and unnecessary friction between hunters and tens of thousands of wildlife watchers, for the benefit of a few hundred hunters in each state. How can that be worth doing for wildlife departments looking to cultivate support from nonconsumptive wildlife observers and enthusiasts? State game departments have a mandate to serve all the citizens of their state, not just the ones with guns.

The public comment period on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources sandhill crane hunting season proposal ends August 1, 2011. Submit written comments by mail to


Attn: Rose Mack

U.S. 60

Frankfort, KY 40601

Email your comments to

If you’ve got a good letter written, please send it to:

 Rowan W. Gould,  Secretary

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20240

The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior

 Department of the Interior

1849 C. Street, N.W.

Mail Stop 7060 Washington, D.C. 20240

If you haven’t signed this excellent petition to the USFWS to reconsider hunting eastern flyway cranes, please go to:

We’re less than 400 signatures short of our goal of 2,500! Sign it! Spread the word!

For more information:

KY Coalition for Sandhill Cranes

Please, please share this post in your social network channels. We need to create a clamor here, one that can’t be shoved aside by special interest hunting groups. Let the majority speak!

Written by Julie
Julie Zickefoose is an artist, naturalist and writer specializing in natural history. Her writing is based on keen observation of animal and human behavior, and she likes to interweave solid natural history information with larger philosophical themes to challenge and inspire the reader. Julie contributes three-minute natural history commentaries to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She illustrates her books and magazine articles with her own sketches and watercolor paintings. Letters from Eden (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) will soon be followed by a memoir about the birds she has raised, healed, studied and followed throughout her life. She lives at Indigo Hill, an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio with her husband, Bill Thompson III, their children Phoebe and Liam, and their Boston terrier, Chet Baker.