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!
Six Top Reasons to Protest Eastern Flyway Crane Hunting:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
Frankfort, KY 40601
Email your comments to email@example.com
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
Rock on Julie…and thanks!!
What in the world would be the purpose of allowing people to hunt these beautiful birds? People have plenty of other creatures to hunt. Let these birds live the life they were meant to. It’ll just be another thing in the world that humans will make a mess of. Let these beautiful birds be!
Thank you so much for posting this. I will spread the word as much as possible in Illinois!
Heavens sakes alive!!!What in the world are people thinking??We need to do EVERYTHING we can to SAVE our wildlife, NOT destroy it!!!
I am stunned! Our wildlife is so precious and we are it’s keepers. We must do all we can to perserve not destroy that which is so fragile.
This species is very special, and still recovering from the accidents hunters made on it before. please do not let them begin hunting again! There are plenty of birds that are hugely populated that can be hunted but not this species!
Just an FYI — the links to the KY websites are broken.
Way to go, Julie! Lots of good points here. I just can’t imagine anyone wanting to hunt these birds.
For those who are in such disbelief of a hunting proposition, here is an assessment by a fellow birder.
Also, the hunting season is proposed for December. By then, those Whooping Cranes who fly over (via ultralight escort) have already reached their winter resorts, no? How many Whooping Cranes are in Kentucky in December?
What on earth are these people thinking???????????
Julie, thank you endlessly for continuing to speak for the cranes until the final hour. The desire to shoot these birds, on any ones part, simply makes no sense. I have said all along, that if every citizen of the state (TN last winter, or KY now) knew about this and each person would be allowed to have a say, the massive majority would not want to see this happen. The people who want to shoot sandhill cranes is a very small percentage, and the cranes belong to ALL OF US. They deserve our ongoing protection and reverence. Please, please, please let the majority rule on this one.
@Sara: Birdchick’s take on the Minnesota hunt is interesting, and a departure from the reaction of every other birder I’ve personally spoken to about this issue. It is tempting to view her take as a kind of “oh well, what’s done is done” resignation, given that Minnesota slipped its season in without any fanfare or apparently any opportunity for public comment. If I lived in a state that pulled stuff like that under my watch, I might be shrugging, too. Birdchick makes good points about hunter dollars and habitat conservation, but I think there are problems with treating sandhill cranes as a game species that counterbalance the possible revenue. For one thing, you don’t even need to purchase a duck stamp to hunt cranes in any state, because cranes, through some legal wrinkle I don’t fully understand, aren’t under the migratory bird umbrella. It’s very cheap or free to hunt sandhill cranes in most Central flyway states where they occur, and the hunts in both Kentucky and Tennessee would be revenue-negative for those states–they will cost more to maintain than they will bring in. Will there be a huge uptick in interest in preserving crane habitat as a result of these new Eastern hunting seasons? Remains to be seen. Hasn’t exactly happened in the Central flyway–look at constant water diversion and the ever-shrinking habitat of the cranes’ vital Platte River stopover if you think so. Can Eastern flyway populations withstand the harvest? Nobody knows for sure. As one crane biologist so succinctly put it: “We don’t even know what the East looks like with sandhill cranes, and we’re already proposing to hunt them??” Will the hundreds of thousands of people who love to watch cranes flying over and massing for migration be OK with the idea that they’re being shot just outside refuges? I’m seriously doubting it. I’m not OK with it. I’m not shrugging. I’m fighting it. Though we’ve never heard a peep from either TN or KY’s state wildlife officials about the relative numbers of people protesting the proposed hunts versus the number applauding them, Tennessee’s two-year moratorium on their proposal is pretty telling. I suspect we *will* hear from the USFWS how the public comments on Kentucky’s hunt proposal balanced out. It’s going to be interesting when a little sun is allowed to shine in the dark corners of the decisions made by all-hunter commissions such as Kentucky’s. In the meantime, I’m pulling for majority rule on this one.
The article and comments fail to consider the possible benefits of license and tax money (on gear). If done properly, it is not just a few hunters that will benefit from that, and I suspect the author is simply lying when she wrote that part. The alternative is she is ignorant. I’m from Michigan. It’s taking some money to work on our trumpeter swans, osprey, and bald eagles, most of which is payed for by *gasp* hunters. What if we could do more work like that without seriously impacting crane populations? I’ll never hunt cranes, but think it not impossible that good could come from it, if you can do it right. We really don’t need to have trout killed either, but those fisherman and their organizations can do good things that benefit everyone, and so we permit it, with regulation.
Revenue negative – then I’ll take back what I said – if you point to data.
No data, Rork, and I’d appreciate a more civil tone; “simply lying” and “ignorant” are pretty strong words to use in a forum like this. You may feel free to disagree with me, but please use your indoor voice. No data that I know of have been published on the revenue potential of the southern crane hunts, but I spoke personally with a wildlife official in Kentucky who assured me that the crane hunt is “not about revenue” and will cost the department more than it brings in, and my sources within the Tennessee game department assure the same. True, it’s “not impossible” that some good could come from hunting cranes, if you can get past the strenuous objection of the growing majority of people who are out there enjoying our wildlife resources. Shooting them simply because there are enough of them now to shoot some isn’t good enough for me.
I apologize (maybe I was the ignorant one) and fully believe that if folks who want to hunt cranes (or anything you name) can’t convince us it will actually do more good than harm, forget it. Your article and the comments frightened me into thinking that positive effects for the ecosystem are inconceivable for some people. (Maybe I’d listen to economic arguments a bit too, but only if satisfied on the is-good-for-wildlife argument first. It gets tricky in there.)
Why does everyone feel the answer is always killing our wildlife? I am so tired of it. Use your heads and come up with something else. This is not the answer by any means. Listen to your hearts for once, if you have one!
As a museum scientist who studies birds and other vertebrates I spend a fair amount of time and energy explaining the admittedly counter intuitive idea that killing birds can contribute to saving birds. I think the distinction to make is the difference between saving individuals and saving populations. All individuals die at some point and as such can not be conserved, that is why conservation biology is about conserving populations and not individuals. I would say if the demographic models were done then I can imagine that Sandhill Cranes can absorb some take without appreciable effects on the population. I would have to look at the data I guess but in general I personally, as an ornithologist, birder and general nature lover, have no fundamental opposition to this (and I live in KY).
As a museum scientist the frustration I have is the fact that many states allow bird takes for hunters but not for scientific collecting, especially general collecting efforts. In many states you could take more birds with a hunting permit than with a scientific permit. In anticipation of the anticipated arguments against scientific collecting I would remind all about the study of the deleterious effects of DDT on bird populations. Egg shell thinning as a result of DDT was discovered through comparisons with museum egg collections. The important thing to remember is that these collections were made as part of a general collecting effort to create a tangible document of biological diversity and not with any idea in mind of some future environmental benefit. None-the-less that was exactly the result. There are numerous other examples, and not just from birds, including a recent study looking at museum amphibian collections and applying modern molecular techniques to look at the history of the cytrid fungus.
The point is I would be cautious against the gut reaction that killing birds is always bad. I certainly think state agencies should think carefully about offering a crane season but I’m not as concerned about it as many others. I do however think that regulations should be balanced and fair to promote research (including general museum collecting) as well as regulated recreational hunting.
People all have different contributions to make and different ways to appreciate nature. I would say that for most of the hunters I’ve know they have as great an appreciation of nature as any birder. Science, hunting and birding all have their places.
@Julie, admittedly there are differences from the Minnesota case, and the legislation without representation issue is not forgiven. Although, it is not quite so. Many would claim hunting to be a natural right just as is bird-watching, and I cannot really argue with that. The opportunities for compromise are obvious here.
I just find this conversation to be annoying without numbers; the data make the strongest arguments (e.g. stronger than the very slippery slope along “I like to watch/photograph cranes; therefore, we should not shoot/eat them” and more compelling than the “have a heart” anecdotes that come up). “The numbers depend on weather conditions, but there may be several thousand to more than 20,000 cranes in an area of Kentucky from mid-December until early March.” Really? So is it 2K ± an order of magnitude or more like 15K+7K? And is the variance from year to year or from month to month? If we are talking about <500 of 20K (or even of 10K), that is not necessarily damning to the species, especially not initially. It is known that at those numbers, the Sandhill Cranes endure harder hits: either by random disasters like hail storms or routine assaults by power lines (e.g. at Platte River site) or at surprising rates, recurrent mycotoxicoses.Windingstad
Nevertheless, I would wonder if the officials in Kentucky could count, seeing as they have not demonstrated aptitude for that nor for logical arguments. The whole Q&A is poor, or maybe the questions are just the wrong ones.
And while this part is only Kentucky’s business, I totally do not understand how they could make the hunting season revenue negative! If someone has to pay, I would prefer that the hunters be asked to re-invest in the habitat, since they are the ones coming home with dinner (i.e. removing a resource). I do not have sufficient data to be strongly opposed to the hunt, but without the revenue factor or rather with the negative revenue factor, I do not really understand why it is proposed at all. Therefore, I am shruggish. And I am with @Herman against the absolute and unconditional knee-jerk reaction to hunting.
A rhetorical question for those who are on the fence about this issue. Have you ever traveled to New Mexico, Nebraska, or Indiana watch a gathering of sandhill cranes? Ever waited in a blind for them to take off at first light, or waited on a bridge for them to parachute in against a sunset? Ever stood and talked with people as you wait? I’d recommend it. I think one must do that in order to understand how many people feel about cranes. You need to hear their chorus. You need to witness the almost frantic dependence of the yearling colts on their parents, hear the piping calls of a colt separated from its family, see it walking about, head high, looking everywhere in the gray throng for some bird it recognizes. Then flying off alone, still piping. And in the spring, travel to Nebraska to watch them dance as they prepare to take off for far northern breeding marshes, or even for Siberia. As many as 4,000 Siberian cranes and their eggs are taken by subsistence eggers and hunters on the breeding grounds each year, and yes, those cranes winter in the U.S.’s Central flyway. We all know from the example of the great auk and the Labrador duck that egging is a fast track to extinction. Yet there is no differentiation in a hunter’s sights between a threatened Siberian sandhill or an abundant one; no differentiation between lesser and greater sandhill. One distinct Canadian prairie subspecies of sandhill is being selectively exterminated just because it winters in Texas, which takes more cranes than any other state. And who can do anything about that? We’re lucky if a hunter can distinguish a sandhill from a great blue heron from a whooping crane.
Last, you should watch a hunt. You should watch cranes planing in over decoys, big as barn doors, flying as slowly as it’s possible for a land bird to fly. You should see them crumple and thud down to the dirt. And then you should see if you’re still shrugging. Neither I nor most of the respondents here are anti-hunting. We get it. We who live deep in the country know that we’ll likely die in our cars with a deer in our lap if somebody doesn’t harvest a lot of them every year. We notice the browse line, notice the depredation on nice woodland plants and our own gardens. We get the fact that snow geese are eating themselves out of their tundra house and home, and need to be reduced in numbers. We simply don’t see that happening in cranes, yet. Not to say it couldn’t. But given their habitat requirements for breeding, that they’re dependent on large undisturbed wetlands, we don’t really see a threat of crane overpopulation on the horizon. I doubt that my home state of Ohio can support more than a few dozen pairs. Where’s the habitat? Just about gone, eaten up by development. We suspect that cranes are being hunted not for their own good because they’re something new, fun and different to shoot. The number of hunters who’ve told me they’re really not fit to eat is now approaching double digits. As is the number of hunters who’ve told me they’re avid hunters, but wouldn’t consider shooting a crane.
Unscientific? Emotional? Maybe. Sure. But Tennessee’s and Kentucky’s census results are pretty unscientific and emotional, too. There’s a huge variance, as you point out, in winter crane counts. And they don’t even know why. Some speculate that when Jasper Pulaski wildlife refuge in Indiana freezes up, the birds come to Tennessee and Kentucky, but nobody really knows for sure. It seems pretty dumb to go firing into flocks whose origin you don’t even know. It seems doubly dumb to plant feed crops, as Tennessee has for a couple of decades, then complain that the cranes no longer push farther south in the winter, but rather just stay there and eat and “push all the ducks and geese out.” Is that overpopulation, or wildlife mismanagement? Are we who object to crane hunting really trying to strip hunting Americans of all their rights? Trying to make everybody eat vegan? No. We just object to shooting a long-lived, low-reproducing bird with tight family bonds for fun.
This bird has the lowest recruitment rate of any bird now hunted in the U.S. One pair in three raises one young each year. It certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a game bird in my mind.
This is absolutely outrages! most cranes are on endengered species list. It is extremely easy to destroy population because of the reproduction rate is very low. It is just killing for fun, because crane meet is not really edable.
I agree that there is not an overpopulation problem, and I agree that someone should be doing better accounting. However, I do not see that hunting would bring eminent extinction especially regulated to numbers that are less than the other natural and man-made hardships that the population already faces. The recruitment rate may be low, but it is not significantly lower than the mortality rate. The general North American population of Sandhill Cranes has continued to rise in the latter half of the past century despite the fact that the “harvest” numbers exceeded ~15K/year. Sorry, but Kentucky’s marginal <500 is not going to topple the (migratory sub)species. At the same time, I cannot imagine (and am therefore suspicious about) what the officials are trying to accomplish with a harvest objective of 400 and a bit of negative revenue. If I had a vote, I would not vote in favor (mostly for economic reasons), but I remain shruggish.
As an avid birder and a hunter, I’ve followed this issue closely. I’ve looked at Kentucky’s proposal carefully. The proposed harvest in Kentucky represents < 1% of the eastern population of sandhill cranes. I believe even you said in a post on the subject you didn't believe the harvest would harm the population. So if we remove the "science" of impact on the population….for me this issue boils down to one of morality. For some, this idea of hunting cranes is morally repulsive and for some, like me, it is ok.
So how do we proceed from here? It seems to be the point where we just say we'll have to agree to disagree. I have trouble buying the argument it is ok for some animals to be hunted and not for others. So snow geese and white-tailed deer are not as "special" as cranes? I've had some pretty special moments watching both. And as far as your examples of watching cranes: Bosque, well Sandhill cranes are hunted in New Mexico. The birds which assemble in Nebraska are hunted all fall and winter in the Central Flyway. Hunting and nature viewing do not have to be mutually exclusive. I'm a great example of someone who enjoys both.
I do believe hunters have paid the majority of the bills for wildlife conservation to this point. I do also believe nature viewers need to have the opportunity to contribute as well. At the end of the Great Depression hunters stepped up and asked that they be taxed (via Pittman Robertson) to support wildlife conservation. Maybe it's time for internet savvy birding leaders like you to start a campaign to create a P-R like tax on nature viewers. I's not going to happen without you!!!
First, thank you for your very civil response. I completely agree that nature viewers need more opportunities to contribute money to habitat conservation and restoration. In Ohio, I’m driving around with nature preserve license plates and buying our brand new wildlife stamp, in addition to donating tremendous amounts of time to avian and box turtle rehab, and answering many calls each day advising people what to do with hurt and orphaned wildlife. I do our county wildlife officer’s job for him for nothing, every day, and you can bet he knows it. Pushing that tax through is a real toughie. Many vendors fight it tooth and nail. I’d love to have the magic wand on that one.
And I do think a lot of people are going off on the extinction tangent, and assuming I’m up in arms about the hunt because it will decimate the birds. Sorry for my miscommunication if so. Wildlife managers are smarter than that. I don’t think we’re looking at another extinction scenario with these hunts. My problem with the hunts has more to do with the dissonance they set up between wildlife watchers, for whom cranes are “special” and even “sacred,” and hunters, for some of whom they may well be both those things. Nevertheless, hunters kill cranes, and wildlife watchers don’t much like that notion. I found out at Bosque del Apache in the early ’90’s, while leading a crane sketching workshop at their Festival of the Cranes, in fact, that the birds were being hunted just outside the refuge. I saw the blinds and decoys and absolutely could not believe it was going on right outside the refuge during the festival. If that isn’t dissonance, I don’t know what is. I guess I was supposed to think that’s just fine, to celebrate a magnificent bird just over an imaginary boundary line from where it’s being shot in the head and held up by the neck for photos. A part of me has never been able to process that, I’ll admit.
I never made the argument that cranes are more special than deer or snow geese, so don’t bother trying to buy that. I said there doesn’t appear to be an overpopulation issue with cranes in the East as there is with snow geese and deer, to use two examples. A “harvest” isn’t needed as yet. So the question becomes, “Why should they be killed?’ And that question is thrown into relief by their demonstrated ecotourism value.
Why aren’t we shooting red-tailed hawks? They’re magnificent and common, too. Great blue herons are exploding. Shoot them. Why not? Because they don’t taste good? A lot of people who’ve eaten crane say it doesn’t taste good, either. Why should cranes be shot and not herons? Because there are enough of them to do it? So why not shoot everything that there’s enough of? Robins. Egrets. Turkey vultures. Good sport. We draw lines around some and pull them into “game species.” Why? I’m trying to get at the root of this, for myself as much as for my readers.
I pointed out in my penultimate post on cranes for 10,000 Birds
that the Commissioner of the KDFWR owns a private hunting LLC, Southern Wildlife Resources LLC, whereby he sets clients up with outfitters and leases thousands of acres of land for hunting. It must be nice for him to look forward to having another species to send people after. Hmm. Is there potential personal financial gain for Commissioner Jon Gassett in pushing for a sandhill crane hunt? And should a public servant stand to gain privately from his position? The hunters were conspicuously silent on that question. Nobody seems to want to touch that one, but it smells real funny to me.
And Sara, I think you should go see cranes in the wild. It can change you.
Thanks to everyone for entertaining this discussion. It’s giving me fuel for my letters to the USFWS.
I appreciate your passion and the things you do. But clearly you are an exceptional person and we can’t plan our future based on your way above average efforts. I have considered this situation seemingly forever and come back to ultimately how do we fund wildlife conservation. Hunting is declining and the money it generates will be declining as well. But as a birder, I know there just that there really aren’t that many of us either. This “major” issue has generated 2o somethings posts here. I look around at a birder meeting and as much as I worry about recruitment of new hunters, I worry more about the recruitment of new birders. Let’s face it- kids (I know there are a very few exceptions)don’t seem to care about anything that doesn’t have approval from Xbox. In my 30 plus years of birding I never remember less kids involved. Used to be the late teen and 20 something guys drove birding. Now those guys are 50 something and I just don’t see their replacements.
The ultimate question is how does the casual nature watcher contribute. The person that makes up the vast majority of the number cited in the USFWS 2006 report on increasing numbers of nature watchers. The “I drove the Loop at Cade’s Cove” or “I hung a bird feeder and even put seed in it once” so I’m a nature watcher crowd. The only thing I can imagine is a P-R like tax on birdseed.
Oh well! We agree to disagree. Just remember good people can disagree on issues and for all the passion that some have opposing of crane hunting, there are those that feel just as strongly the other way. I think I’ll follow your lead and write the USFWS and thank them for approving this hunt and explain what it means to me.
So then we have narrowed it down to only 3 reasons: 1) that the hunt is not necessary (while hunters can argue that the prohibition is not necessary) 2 (formerly No. 5) the possible losses in ecotourism (valid, but again, we already agree that Kentucky threw out math on in this issue), and 3 (formerly No. 6) the “cultural dissonance” (which should not be looked upon as a problem of the State; the tension is already there).
You left out number 3–collateral kill of whooping cranes. Which is #1 in some people’s minds as The Reason not to open season on sandhill cranes. They travel together. A couple of things to think about. First, we’ve only got 400 whooping cranes on the planet, and people shot five (or, depending on what source you rely on) six of them last winter alone. In states without crane hunting seasons. What happens when it’s suddenly legal to shoot cranes?
In the vernacular of most citizens of southern Ohio, where I live, a “crane” is a heron. And a heron is a crane. The name “heron” isn’t even used to describe long-necked wading birds. An egret is a white crane. One man commented on my last post, saying he had cranes standing around the edge of his pond stocked with hundreds of dollars worth of brim, cleaning him out. I gently corrected him, telling him sandhill cranes are not herons. This was apparently news. One natural history educator at a meeting I attended in Kentucky said, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to teach people not to shoot herons and hang them on the barbed wire fence. And now you want to open season on cranes.” Darned good point. Collateral kill is a big issue here.
Again, how many Whooping Cranes are in Kentucky in December?
I think you’re making a shaky assumption that people who will shoot whooping cranes have the slightest regard for hunting seasons. My point stands whether there are whooping cranes in Kentucky (or Tennessee) in December or not. My point is: If you make it legal to shoot cranes, it opens a whole new realm of shooting big long-necked birds, and by simple logic it makes it more tempting to go for the big white one. Capiche?
The stunning level of ignorance & destruction we humans have shown our Mother Earth continues with this ill advised “hunt”! As if it takes any skill to shoot these majestic beauties? Numerous Whoopers were shot in the past year and their future is looking worse every day!! The farmers can treat their seeds with a protective coating that will repel the cranes.
The hunters can shoot dozens of other species that aren’t in harms way!!!
Come on folks, how many more years will it take before we live in a wasteland?
Non capisco. If we have to regulate based on the fact that there are people who do not abide by regulations, then good luck to us. Whooping Cranes have been shot dead in states where Crane hunting is not permissible. Is it because the realm of hunting in general was opened? Is it because the realm of shotguns was opened? We had better develop the realm of avian necro-forensics, in any case. And we can raise the slippery slope issue about any species, including the other “big long-necked” pheasants, after all. So we are still back to the 3, one or arguably two (since there is some suspicion of “conflict of interest”) of which being really only Kentucky’s business, and the third of which is something that hunters and birders should work out, not the State of Kentucky.
And given that we basically agree that the season doesn’t make sense, your role in this is to minutely dissect the arguments I’ve put forth for people who might want to take action, to write a letter of protest? I’m not sure what you’re doing here, Sara, other than to take potshots from the sidelines at a product I’ve put out for consumption. Color me puzzled.
I am trying to understand if there is a strong argument against the hunting proposition or if maybe there is something else that you are trying to write. Sometimes the obvious arguments do not get put forth, and it turns out that they are not obvious to everyone. As I dissect, other issues come up. Maybe devil’s advocacy could help your letter? Also, if scientists, field biologists, and conservationists throw around vernacular like “recruitment rate” (without explaining the context of that or recognizing that it is not the necessarily the dominant factor in population dynamics) or overlook details of migration patterns, then this just looks like propaganda, and that could be discrediting to a voice that may be needed next time around. If we appoint ourselves to represent the birds, then we had better do it right, regardless of whether or not KDFWR will can appreciate the accuracy. You can see from the comments here that KDFWR will be bombarded with a lot of ignorant and impassioned “Why kill the animals??” or “OMG, they’re endangered,” and that is not really going to help the cause. I would rather not have Crane hunting, but it is not easy to argue that no one should.
I have to say this is a very fair discussion, especially with @Julie @sara @Scott. This is not always the norm for discussions about killing birds. I really see little evidence that there will be an impact. As @sara said,
“The general North American population of Sandhill Cranes has continued to rise in the latter half of the past century despite the fact that the “harvest” numbers exceeded ~15K/year. Sorry, but Kentucky’s marginal <500 is not going to topple the (migratory sub)species."
Also, @Julie says,
"This bird has the lowest recruitment rate of any bird now hunted in the U.S. One pair in three raises one young each year. It certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a game bird in my mind."
This seems to me to lessen the impact as it means that 2/3 of the population are not contributing to the next generation in any given year and as such any given take is unlikely to remove a breeder from the population. I would say that most birds even over their lifetime are not contributing to the population.
I just don't see much evidence of impact. As for hunters making mistakes and shooting everything from whoopers to herons I wouldn't say that would never happen but I would give responsible hunters more credit. Anyone who is going to the trouble to pay for their two tags for the year are very likely to be as good as any birder at distinguishing among species. Anyone irresponsible enough to not take the time to distinguish between any number of long-necked birds is unlikely to take the time to bother with the tags anyway and they have probably been shooting herons and everything else for a long time now, hunting season or not.
Incidentally I myself have a scientific collecting permit for Kentucky but it only allows me to band and not kill any birds. My initial proposal excluded taking any species occurring at number less than 20,000 breeding birds for the entire state according to breeding bird survey numbers and for species occurring over 20,000 I proposed only to take 2 birds per 20,000 in a given year with a maximum of 100 birds total. These collections are vital resources for the study of everything from evolution to the environment (see my previous post talking about how we used museum collections to document the impact of DDT) and Kentucky is very poorly represented in the national biological collections. The irony in my mind is not that KY is allowing recreational hunting for a single species like Sandhill Crane but rather they are not allowing general scientific collecting at much lower numbers (2-10 individuals for a single species in a year as opposed to 800).
Herman, Your argument that it’s ok to shoot Sandhill Cranes because 2/3 rds of them aren’t “contributing to the next generation” is a bit short sighted and crass. It’s like saying “shoot ’em because they don’t reproduce, what good are they?” And then to say that a “breeder” won’t be taken from the population is not a fair statement either. Perhaps you can tell me how you can tell who the “breeders” are in a flock of Cranes? Or which ones are sexually mature, since SACR don’t start reproducing until they are between the ages of 3-5 yrs.
The question is not whether we can or have the right to shoot Sandhill Cranes but rather SHOULD we shoot them just because we can?
For those of you interested in understanding how a hunting season on sandhill cranes in the east could cause serious harm to the recovering sandhill crane population, please take the time to read the report written by Jeb Barzen, Director of Field Ecology for the International Crane Foundation (ICF). The link is provided below. ICF does not take a stand on hunting but makes their research available to all of us. Barzen knows the science and survey methods used in wildlife management and addresses both in the document.
You will find in the document some compelling reasons why the timing for this hunt season is very wrong, as well as, why the flyway management plan should not include a hunting option. It is sad that the vast community of people who love and support wildlife are being split by this issue. The eastern states would be better served if we were using all this energy to improve the financial base we have to work with and, instead, putting our heads together to solve the many problems faced by wildlife today.
@ herman “”This bird has the lowest recruitment rate of any bird now hunted in the U.S. One pair in three raises one young each year. It certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a game bird in my mind.”
This seems to me to lessen the impact as it means that 2/3 of the population are not contributing to the next generation in any given year and as such any given take is unlikely to remove a breeder from the population. I would say that most birds even over their lifetime are not contributing to the population.”
Population dynamics doesn’t quite work that way. What the low-recruitment low-productivity lifestyle means is that cranes need long lifetimes in order to replace themselves, in contrast to say a robin which can pump out two broods of four chicks a year. Slow long term breeders are more at risk from increases in adult mortality than fast breeders. The fact that they are often unsuccessful is a strong indicator that we shouldn’t be killing adults, not the opposite.
@sara: I find your tone condescending and feel that those who are opposed to crane hunting for reasons other than the inability of the population to support hunting to be just as valid. And I notice that neither you nor anyone else has addressed Julie’s questions about hunting species like robins or vultures. Should we kill everything that has a population that won’t go extinct from it?
Kentucky is trying to allow hunting of Sandhill Cranes in an undemocratic fashion where the person with the most power in the decision-making process has a financial stake in allowing more hunting. The state will lose money by allowing hunting. That stinks. It makes no sense. And energy spent fighting this fight would be much better spent supporting more habitat for all birds.
Maybe those who care about the welfare of majestic birds like the Sandhill Crane should stop concern trolling those doing good work and turn their energy towards positive ends?
@Julie Thanks again for keeping us updated on the Sandhill Crane dilemma.
@Corey right on!
@Duncan I would think that this is obvious to most people but I have been wrong before
@Vickie thank you for your high quality information and continuous dedication
Personally, I see no problem with opposing the Crane hunt simply because I don’t “feel” that it’s the right thing to do. However, as with most controversial questions like this, I find the easiest thing for me to do is get a piece of paper and right down the pros on one side and the cons on the other and see which list is longer. In the debate on whether to kill Sandhill Cranes or not, it’s a no brainer.
I’m not sure if it qualifies as obvious. But then again population ecology was one of my least liked courses at both undergraduate and masters level!
For those who agree that the sustainability of the population is not at risk (i.e. reported mortality rates in the literature seem to have decreased marginally while harvest numbers have significantly increased), let us discuss the “morality” of it. Apparently, the ethical hypocrisy is not obvious everyone. How can we encourage shooting of Starlings (e.g. there is Starling stew, while this species is red-listed in Northern Europe) but condemn hunting of American Robins, Grackles (they are already being poisoned at military bases; so much for MBTA protection), or Red-winged Blackbirds? How can we condone hunting of Turkeys or even consumption of eggs laid by de-beaked hens who have never seen light of day but ask people not to hunt the Sandhill Cranes? Hunting is arguably more ethical than the way most urban people sequester animal protein in their diet, so who/what dictates which birds are game? (ha, a pun). Julie already posited some of these questions, and for those who are interested, there has been a similar conversation regarding the hunt of migratory Amur Falcons in Nagaland. That we may find Crane hunting repulsive (personally, I even find Starling shooting repulsive, despite extermination being arguably necessary in North America) is not really sufficient to justify prohibition on the hunt.
@sara: You’ve moved from concern trolling to building up straw men to knock down.
And you continue to dodge the difficult questions and issues. (Rephrasing a question is not answering it.) Do you think it should be open season on robins and hawks and herons simply because they have a population that could sustain a hunt? If not, why not? Do you think a hunt should be approved by someone who has a financial stake in seeing it approved? If so, why? Do you think it makes sense to support a hunt that will lose money for the state? If so, why?
Also, it is not at all clear that the eastern flyway population can sustain a hunt, as the link Vickie provided makes clear.
“Herman, Your argument that it’s ok to shoot Sandhill Cranes because 2/3 rds of them aren’t “contributing to the next generation” is a bit short sighted and crass. It’s like saying “shoot ‘em because they don’t reproduce, what good are they?” And then to say that a “breeder” won’t be taken from the population is not a fair statement either. Perhaps you can tell me how you can tell who the “breeders” are in a flock of Cranes? Or which ones are sexually mature, since SACR don’t start reproducing until they are between the ages of 3-5 yrs.
The question is not whether we can or have the right to shoot Sandhill Cranes but rather SHOULD we shoot them just because we can?
My bad, I accidentally hit submit on my last post before finishing, or even getting started, on what I was going to say.
@CLR brings up valid points but there are two issues at play. First, as @CLR seems to be bringing up, is the issue as to whether it is morally right to shoot a crane. That is a perfectly valid discussion to have. However, if you oppose the hunting of cranes on these moral grounds then the discussion moves into whether it is OK to hunt deer, use a snap trap to kill a mouse in your house, step on an ant, swat a mosquito, kill hundreds of cowbirds in Central Michigan and any number of other direct actions that kill an animal. Then there is the indirect involvement. Is it OK for birders to let their cats outdoors or use cell phones both of which kill orders of magnitude more birds than all the legal recreational hunting combined.
Outside of the moral arguments there is the argument as to whether the hunting will adversely affect the population. Again, conservation biology is not about preserving individuals but only populations. The observation that most birds do not contribute to the next generation within a given year is an indication that there is ample variation in reproductive success such that the actual population size and the effective population size do not match (as is the case for most birds, or any other animal for that matter). This means that on average hunting will seldom take an individual out of the population that would have contributed to it’s growth and thus the impacts will be lessened. This idea is supported by the observation that despite legal crane hunting in excess of some 1400 birds a year (see @sara post on this, I think that is the number she sighted) that Sandhill Crane populations are increasing not decreasing. If all individuals were contributing equally to the population then this simply couldn’t happen. There are typically differences between census population sizes and effective population sizes that result from variance in reproductive success.
Going back to Malthus and Darwin we have known that there is an excess in reproduction in most populations, meaning that more offspring are produced than will either survive to adulthood or reproduce to contribute to the population. This is the point I was making and the point that @duncan disagreed with.
So there are two arguments.
The moral argument which one is more than welcome to make in this case and may have some merits, but, making that argument will force one to distinguish why cranes should be any different than cowbirds, ducks, chickens, or even mice, fish, ants, or spiders.
The other argument is the argument from the standpoint of conservation biology regarding the impact of any take of individuals on the population. I haven’t seen any evidence yet that would lead me to worry that the take being allowed in KY, or any where else, would have, is having any significantly negative effects on Sandhill Crane populations.
@Corey, I have already answered those questions. Please (re-)read my comments above. If my tone now seems “condescending,” take into consideration that you are the one making the personal innuendos, while some of us are just carrying on a discussion.
In short, I can oppose this for economic reasons (although, again, that is only Kentucky’s business), but I am not prepared to make a moral argument, because it is not for me to decide that the life of a migratory Sandhill Crane is more valuable than that of a Turkey nor of a Red-winged Blackbird. To legislate based on “it doesn’t seem/feel right” to us is obviously problematic. And content of the link that Vickie provided clarifies nothing; it is just an opinion with no data. I think that if the so-called “Crane experts” want to prohibit the hunt, then they should present reason(s) (and not feelings) for that.
@sara: You did not answer any of the simple yes or no questions I asked. And I am not using innuendo – I am directly stating that you are a concern troll and that you are building and knocking down straw men. Also, you seem confused about the content of the link because it is mostly data and little opinion.
I’ll reduce my questions to one: Are you opposed to a hunting season on robins and hawks and herons if their populations can sustain such a season? A simple yes or no will suffice.
For me that is an easy question. I have no opposition in principle to the regulated taking any species whose populations can sustain the take. I would say there should be some reasonable underlying use and this would include scientific collecting and personal consumption (maybe you could make a case that one would eat a robin, millions of mourning doves are shot and eaten although I would say they tastier, but there isn’t much of a consumption case to validate hunting say warblers or hummingbirds).
BTW something that I haven’t seen come up in this discussion is why hunt cranes? Word on the street is that a crane is the most delicious game bird around. Grain fed angus beef of the bird world. I doubt herons would be nearly as palatable. Ultimately most hunters are hunting things to eat them.
Also a gentle reminder to birders. In most cases, particularly when you bird a foreign country, the plates in your field guide were produced from examining museum specimens that someone shot.
Q: Are you opposed to a hunting season on robins and hawks and herons if their populations can sustain such a season? A simple yes or no will suffice.
A: For the nth time (where n>2), no.
@Herman: I don’t think you’ll find many people agreeing with you on that. And, yes, most birders are aware that museum specimens are used to make field guides. I don’t think many are absolutely opposed to reasonable specimen taking.
@sara: I’m glad we can agree that some birds should just not be hunted. I guess we just draw the line in different places.
Thanks Corey. Good to hear that there is not much in the way of opposition to reasonable collection of specimens for scientific purposes, at least it sounds like not much in the way of opposition on your part.
But, if that is the case then I wonder, why oppose equally reasonable takes for recreational hunting? (Reasonable = little or no impact on the population)
I do agree with sara in that my one opposition would be that if the crane season in KY costs the KDFWR and doesn’t generate revenue to pump into other non-game conservation then it really doesn’t make much sense.
The population of homo sapiens can sustain the take, but that would be absurd and immoral. You’re unlikely to find much exception among birders which bird species are more valued over others. There are the extremes: no bird should be killed and anything sustainable is fair game. Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy – you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it-easy – to predict that any given birder will experience virtually no moral dilemma when it comes to hunting pheasants and geese, but feels strongly this level of unconcern doesn’t extend to cranes? It may be irrational, but perhaps I haven’t thought it through – it sure feels like there’s something extra to me. So, what exactly is it we (birders) find more valuable about cranes that makes it feel absurd and immoral to hunt them?
@Herman: For all of the reasons Julie listed. Also for aesthetic reasons. Because cranes are infinity more valuable flying free then they are dead. Because they are not “ribeye of the sky.” Because shooting things for “recreational” purposes is sick.
“The population of homo sapiens can sustain the take, but that would be absurd and immoral.”
I think that is a non-starter. There is no rational discussion to bad starting from that place. Maybe some of you subscribe to the idea that a bird’s life is equally valuable to a human but I don’t.
“So, what exactly is it we (birders) find more valuable about cranes that makes it feel absurd and immoral to hunt them?”
I’m a birder (and an ornithologist) and don’t think it is either absurd or immoral. I’m not sure sentiment is a good basis for sound environmental management.
I think the position that recreational hunters, many of whom are also birders, are sick is also not a helpful place to start from to resolve this debate.
“I’m a humanist; I’d rather kill a man than a snake.” ~ Edward Abbey
Humans certainly haven’t been very beneficial to the rest of the world’s inhabitants.
Presumably, the same Sandhill Crane pair has been returning to Esser Pond near my apartment for several years. It’s amusing and delightful for me and my neighbors to see them walk through the grass-covered courtyard in search of food; I’ve photographed these gawky birds many times. In my mind there would be something to lament that, if hunted, one or both might no longer provide curious onlookers to step outside onto their patios away from their HDTVs to see these two birds parade across the lawn like old friends coming for an evening visit. Perhaps to value these individual cranes like this is being excessively sentimental. And maybe the cold and objective professional biologist is just unable to feel it because he/she has to be concerned with populations and not individuals. It doesn’t occur to any of us that there is a pair of chicken dinners walking our way.
This comment came in on my first post on the Kentucky crane hunt, and it’s too good to hide. Enough pointy-headed academic dissection of what might oughta be huntable and what might oughtn’t. Listen to what James Daniels has to say about what’s really going down in Kentucky. And write those letters to the USFWS. Good grief.
COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSED SANDHILL CRANE HUNT-July 21, 2011
I am Jim Daniel and as a licensed hunter I am one of KDFWR’s traditional “customers”, as they call us. I have hunted and fished around here all of my life and I do not support the establishment of a Sandhill Crane hunt in Kentucky and oppose this crane hunting season regulation. I came before the Commission on June 3 to express my concerns that the passage of this proposal would fuel the anti-hunting sentiment out there and damage our present and future funding mechanisms. The Commission responded in kind with a unanimous vote to approve the season on Sandhill Cranes. I see that move as being short-sighted and ignoring the facts that were presented.
From the testimony that was presented that day and from what I have learned since, I am perplexed about what exactly IS the case to hunt Sandhills. Call me old fashioned if you will, but things have to make sense to me. I have pondered this issue for some time now, talking to a lot of folks including other hunters, and given the information that was presented by the Department, this thing still doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Maybe someone can help me understand.
We were told that this hunt was requested by sportsman due to the “increased visibility” of the species. I believe that the popularity of the Barren River State Park/Fish and Wildlife hosted crane viewing weekends certainly speaks to the increased visibility, but that is a whole different thing than the hunt. These weekends are filled with folks who willing pay $30 a head, plus lodging and food expenses, just to see and photograph Sandhills in their natural habitat. The Wildlife Management Area could probably triple or quadruple the number of sessions and fill every one of them if they were properly advertised. The money making potential and good-will building towards all things in support of conservation seems lucrative. Instead, we are choosing to drive up the box end canyon with no future in sight. It doesn’t make a lick of sense.
At the June meeting, we were also told that the implementation of this hunt was part of a long term strategy to make hunting more popular to our youth and thus, increase revenues for conservation through the sale of licenses and hunting equipment. True enough, there is real reason to be concerned about the future funding of F&W and conservation in general. According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, Kentucky has a hunter replacement ratio of only .66, which means that only 2/3 of our youth in hunting families are continuing to participate in the sport. This means that the primary traditional source of funding habitat and resource management programs is unsustainable, so how will we continue funding conservation in Kentucky?
According to the KDFWR’s own web site, part of the answer appears to be that “wildlife watching is the fastest growing recreational activity in the world. In the U.S., wildlife watching generates more than $45 billion a year. In Kentucky, studies indicate that more people watch birds than play golf.” We hunters can like it or not, but eco-tourists are the future of conservation and therefore, hunting in Kentucky.
How will the implementation of this proposal effect public sentiment which could then negatively effect donations to the Kentucky Non-game Tax Checkoff, or maybe the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, or partnerships and gifts from major corporations to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation? After all, what individual would want to donate or what corporation would want to have its name associated with a highly unpopular and controversial program?
Given that inconvenient truth, does F&W and the Commission really think that declaring open season on Kentucky’s most watchable bird makes economic sense in the long run? Do they really think that hunting and killing Big Bird, to the horror of millions of our youth who grew up with him on Sesame Street, is a workable strategy to attract them into becoming hunters? Like I said, this doesn’t make a lick of sense.
One thing is for certain, this proposal is causing so much angst and ill-will within the conservation and eco-tourism community, that it doesn’t seem worth it. Why is F&W creating all of this fuss over just 400 possible birds taken, amongst only 400 hunters max with NO money generated for the Department? There just seems to be a lot of effort in KDFWR, coming from the top down, to get this off the ground in time for this coming season. We heard the Commissioner’s claim that 50 wildlife biologists have worked on the 2010 EP Management Plan and this hunting proposal, and there were two full-time biologists on it for at least two years. That is a tremendous expenditure of resources for a program that will serve just 400 (trophy) hunters a year and generate no revenue for the department. What could possibly justify this gross expenditure of scarce Department funds for so little apparent gain? This doesn’t make a lick of sense, or does it?
Maybe we should just follow the money. As a criminal investigator with Environmental Protection, that is what we did when stuff just didn’t add up. Who will be the primary beneficiaries of setting up this hunt? For sure, there are those who will profit from it, even if it isn’t KDFWR. If the elk hunt in Kentucky is any indication, there are rich city folks lining up to pay large dollars to private guides to hunt this “exotic” species on private/leased and public lands. The elk hunt is also lottery controlled and there are reports of hunters paying up to $25,000 for a bull elk tag on the black market. The limited Sandhill Crane tags will assure that the hunt remains exclusive, and thus keep the guide/lease fees high. One has to wonder what a black market Sandhill Crane tag for the “virgin” Eastern Population will be worth?
Who stands to profit? First, there are those few who are lucky enough to actually win the lottery or rich enough to buy a black market tag, comprised of what I imagine are mostly trophy/exotic species hunters . As a hunter who has hunted squirrel, rabbit and deer, I have never had much of an appreciation for trophy or exotic species hunters…or game ranches for that matter. It sounds like something rich guys like Dick Cheney like to do. To each his own, I guess. I see the spoils of trophy hunters every year…those who kill bucks just to chop out the big rack, leaving the rest of the animal to ruin. Nope, trophy hunters are not too high on my list.
Others who may benefit are those who own the land where KDFWR’s “trained and equipped wildlife biologists” have already performed surveys and identified the prime crane hunting locations. No doubt about it, having Sandhill Cranes on these properties will definitely be “a value-added asset”. Those with this insider information could be able to profit from it handily.
There are those “who are interested in buying, selling or leasing” these lands and the licensed realtors who specialize “in finding those opportunities of a lifetime” for their customers. They could make a bundle off of the implementation of this hunt.
Then there are the guides who “provide their customers with the convenience of a guided or outfitted trip”, connecting these crane trophy hunters with “high quality outdoor opportunities”. Also standing to profit are those who provide a booking service for customers “who like the convenience of a guided or outfitted trip but don’t have the time or resources to verify the reputation and abilities of a guide service”. Pretty cool sounding, huh?
Also in line to profit are those who have a wildlife consulting company that offers “a full range of products and services to customers who desire to evaluate, manage, enhance, and sustain their wildlife resources”. Those that are staffed by “trained, certified wildlife biologists, who will provide professional guidance on how to handle all of their wildlife issues, or can assist in a major land acquisition, a wildlife or fisheries survey, a habitat management plan, a fisheries enhancement plan”, are particularly well-situated to profit from this hunt.
While on the surface there is nothing wrong with the local community or others benefiting from hunting as long as there is nothing improper occurring. Now, let me be clear that I do not know that anyone at KDFWR will benefit personally from the implementation of the Sandhill Crane hunt, but it appears that there may be conflicts of interest potentially present. Factoring them into this equation certainly would help make all of the resources expended on this proposal to make sense…all that you have to do is just follow the potential money.
I understand there have been previous complaints filed against the current KDFWR agency’s head because of alleged conflicts of interest issues regarding private side businesses, such as Southern Wildlife Resources LLC and Greenwood Land Company. He sells himself on his personal website as having “more than 17 years experience as a wildlife biologist, land manager, and high level governmental policy maker in the wildlife conservation field” and a “licensed Kentucky realtor”. What is he selling, information or influence? Perhaps these or other businesses involving KDFWR employees may benefit by providing services to hunters, land owners and offering guide services. Perhaps KDFWR district commissioners may benefit from crane hunting. KDFWR’s insistence in pushing through this unpopular hunt further creates the potential for and appearance of conflicts of interest and personal gain to agency employees. Like I said, it has got to make sense.
All of these phrases that I have quoted were pulled directly from Dr. Gassett’s own private company’s web site…there were more but I think that you can get the gist of it with these. He is selling to the public the very services that he is promoting and approving in his official capacity as Commissioner of KDFWR. You have to hand it to him for his entrepreneurial spirit…it is a classic case of creating a need and then filling it…pure capitalism gone awry.
The mere appearance of improprieties, whether substantiated of not, is enough to quell future donations and grants to the KDFWR’s funding sources. We must maintain wildlife habitat in a world where development pressures are extreme, and the only way to do that is buy it. Where is the money going to come from? We need to be thinking about alliances with these folks here, not driving them away by whipping up stories in the hunting community about their opposition to this proposal being an assault on hunting in general. So far, that is about all that KDFWR has done, ignoring the economic realities and thus, the future.
@Julie, that is more like it. It is good because the author focuses on the valid economic reasons (not feelings) against this, and he offers relevant facts (not out-of-context or easily debunkable claims) to support his suspicions of conflict of interest. Still, respecting states’ rights, this is a battle that the people of Kentucky should (first) fight for themselves. I hope that they will do the right thing and for the right reasons. I think that our “pointy-headed academic dissection” helped!
Reasonable people can oppose the hunting of Sandhill Cranes on scientific, financial and yes, even moral bases and not be anti-hunting. From what I can tell, this proposal to kill 400 Sandhill Cranes is about as popular amongst the public as the government killing Medicare…and the word isn’t really even out yet.
What we need is a celebrity like Ashley Judd to hit the talk show circuit and bring some awareness to this issue. I have sent a packet to the Rachel Maddow Show in hope that they may pick it is up. I disagree with the poster who said that this is a “Kentucky issue” as the birds don’t even live here…they are just passing through. That would be like saying that those folks who stop here at the rest stop out on I-64 should pay Kentucky property taxes or some such drivel. Ludicrous…
Another ludicrous issue that is part of KDFWR’s rhetoric is that the agency is funded solely by hunter’s license fees and taxes derived from the sales of hunting equipment. Fact is that there are other non-hunting sources of funds as well, like the Kentucky Non-game Tax Checkoff, the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, and partnerships and gifts from major corporations to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation?
I am not sure how much money is generated for F&W now from each of those sources as they seem to be closely guarded secrets (by KDFWR), but I believe that if a hunting season is established for Sandhill Cranes that there could be a train wreck of public sentiment ahead that could dramatically effect them.
What I do know is that The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund gave Fish and Wildlife Resources $4,451,521 between 2005 to June 30, 2009, to acquire 4,318 acres in 8 projects. Fish and Wildlife routinely gets 10% of this fund annually. To say that hunting and fishing licenses are footing all of the bills is inaccurate and antiquated. The Heritage Fund’s sources include the nature license plate, the state portion of the unmined minerals tax and environmental fines. We don’t want to isolate these Heritage Fund folks either, as some of their board members have expressed their objections to this proposal.
In the Q&A section of the KDFWR’s crane hunting season proposal, F&W posed the question: “Will the hunting of Sandhill Cranes negatively impact those who simply enjoy watching or photographing them?” The short F&W answer was “No.”
Quite frankly, nobody knows the answer to that question…it is an opinion not fact. These birds have never been shot at in their lifetimes, so they really lack a fear of people for now. It seems obvious that after shooting at them for up to a month beforehand, that they would be extremely afraid of humans during the viewing periods. There are many variables in this equation, none-the-least is that their habitat is rapidly shrinking. So, we simply do not know what effect shooting at them for a month in their migration path will have on them from year to year, or long term. Shucks, the cranes just may start to fly over Kentucky altogether…and if we start shooting at them, I wish that they would.
In the “Proposal”, KDFWR boasts that “Sandhill cranes…are the most abundant crane species in the world…”. That statement and others generally infer that the flock needs to be managed by the government and thinned for its own good. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that the Sandhill Crane needs is habitat protection and then to be left alone.
The Proposal also states that the hunting of these birds “…will have no impact on viewing opportunities in late January and February when cranes are most abundant.” That makes little sense since the birds will be extremely fearful of humans which could easily have a significantly impact the viewing opportunities and quality of the encounters. Will shooting at these birds have an effect on the hunting of these birds? Sure it will, and for the same reasons. It is just common sense…something that the proposal is seriously lacking.
The F&W’s “Case for hunting Sandhill Cranes” says: “Some people simply object to hunting. Others enjoy hunting and consider it an integral and important part of our heritage. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife understands both viewpoints. As an agency of professional biologists, we have carefully considered if hunting a sandhill crane is somehow different than hunting a mourning dove, a wood duck or a wild turkey. We believe there is no difference.“
“No difference”? Really? Well, I guess that they ARE all birds. By this same logic then, there is no difference in my house and the White House, after all, they ARE both “houses”. Is this what F&W meant when they said “the proposal represents rigorous scientific scrutiny”? This is scientific scrutiny? A wildlife biologist would never write or say such a preposterous statement. A forester (which is what Dr. Jon Gassett really is), maybe. Sandhills are quite unique is most every aspect from other migratory birds. Their perfection of form and function has been very nearly untouched by nature’s evolutionary hand for 10 million years!
Let’s face it, nobody pays $30 a head to go outside really early in the dark, frigid throws of winter to see mourning doves, wild turkey or wood ducks. No, we all know that this bird is special! Very special. This is a majestic species that when fully grown has an incredibly large 6–8 feet wingspan, which makes it a very skilled soaring bird similar in style to eagles. It flys in single file formation for hundreds of miles at altitudes so high that it makes them virtually impossible to see from the ground with the naked eye.
The F&W’s Case for hunting them continues: “The biology is indisputable. The Eastern Population of sandhill cranes can sustain limited hunting. Cranes have been hunted in the United States for 50 years, and flock numbers in all of the hunted populations are at all-time highs. The interest in the species generated by the hunters pursuing these birds has been instrumental in the successful management of this species.“
The only stated criteria that the F&W folks are considering is whether the species can sustain a hunting season, according to some biological estimates. The proposal scoffs at those who feel that there is a moral imperative not to kill these very large and ancient birds…that they are truly worth the continuation of their protected status. Fossil remains indicate that this bird or a sub-species could be 10 million years old, making it the oldest bird on earth. If the only criteria for determining whether a protected species is systematically stripped of its status and then hunted is whether it can sustain a population afterward, then how long will it be before we have a season on the bald eagle? After all, their numbers in North America are now at or above 70,000? There are moral issues that are currently being applied to other protected species and it is disingenuous to say that there aren’t.
The F&W’s Case for hunting them continues: “Hunters have paid the bills for many decades to build the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes to its current record numbers. Hunters now are requesting the opportunity to pursue a limited number of these birds. The hunters have a valid point. And the biology supports them.”
What biology? Certainly not the ICF’s independent and unbiased biology. The KDFWR’s open infidelity with the hunting groups in ginning up this issue as an assault on all hunting, destroyed any scientific integrity that it may have had. For this reason, KDFWR’s data can not be accepted by the scientific community as being objective. And the agency heads had the gall to referred to the ICF’s data as “magic” numbers. I guess that magic is better than biased lies, doncha think?
What records? These cranes numbered in the millions before the white man arrived. True enough, it may be that the Sandhill Crane’s comeback has been largely funded by hunters, but then again, it was us hunters that very nearly drove the species to extinction. Why shouldn’t we pay the way to bring them back? That, plus the current protected status could be considered as a kind of reparation. It is the least that we could do as proper stewards. Conscientious stewards must make all kinds of moral judgments and understand the nuances of nature. This proposal does neither.
Just because we CAN shoot these birds doesn’t mean that we SHOULD. I would argue that there are enough targets for us sportsmen to shoot at already without hunting and killing Big Bird. What the “Sandhill” is going on here?
Shoot a Sand Hill Crane ? Why not ?
BUT – use your camera !
If you look into the eyes of these magnificent birds, don’t see how you could KILL them.
But, the only hunting I do is with a camera.
We can all make a difference – do we want to be bother ?
The Sand Hills don’t belong to any specific area .. just like rivers, lakes and streams. We are the caretakers of this Earth.
Let us take a bit more care of if so our children, their children and 7 generations beyond know we were really human.
I personally think it is ridiculous to make targets of animals and birds that don’t have a chance at getting away. If people are shooting animals to feed themselves than I understand it. But to make sport of taking lives of any animal or bird for no other reason than to amuse oneself is lame. And if the animal or bird doesn’t even stand a chance then perhaps it is also dimwitted.
The last date for application for a tag for the KY hunt is November 30th. By all means apply if you are inclined to do so.
I did and guess what…I didn’t get one. Imagine that…
Idk about you Kentucky Tree huggers, but here in Texas sand hill cranes do irreparable damage to farm land where you vegan freaks get your food, much like the over abundant snow goose. If your concerned with only a few hundred hunters trying hunt cranes please take note they are extremely intelligent birds and not every banjo picking inbred will actually kill one. So the average numbers will not be as high as you are probably thinking. Hunters play a very key role in wildlife we are animals too so let nature take course and learn about the process in which responsible hunterers do more in the way of conservation than you tend to believe.
WHY DO THESE LOVELY BIRDS NEED TO BE SHOT FOR VANITY.ARE AMERICANS STARVing.
i my opinoin wild life doent belong to any one country.its part of our planets ecosystem.
these birds not so long ago were on the at risk data base,howcan these birds be a game bird?
I live in Wisconsin and the decision is going to be made here whether or not to have a Sandhill Crane hunting season. I am appalled. I cannot believe that such a beautiful and majestic creature could be legally hunted. Just recovering from being endangered, I am now enjoying listening and watching these precious creatures nesting and caring for their young. It makes me sick to think of them being destroyed, their families sheared apart, babies starving to death having no parents to feed and raise them as nature intended. Do we really need to kill yet another creature? People can’t find anything more entertaining? Can we do anything to stop this?