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THE ISSUE AND OUR CONCERNS
In early 2017, a state-wide discussion was re-ignited after the Wisconsin Conservation Congress included a question about a Sandhill Crane hunting season in their annual spring hearing questionnaire. Although this is just the first step in proposing a possible hunt – a “yes” vote at the Congress meetings this spring is not final approval of a hunt in the state, we believe the citizens of Wisconsin should be well-informed about the implications of a Sandhill Crane hunt in our state.
Decisions should be made using good science and considering diverse opinions while sharing a vision for healthy crane populations on healthy landscapes. Cranes and the habitats they use are valued and supported by hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, farmers, and other landowners. Cranes also evoke a strong emotional and spiritual connection for many people in Wisconsin and around the world.
While federal and state conservation agencies have developed and approved a management plan for Sandhill Cranes, we need to address several concerns before citizens consider a Sandhill Crane hunt in Wisconsin:
1. If not very carefully managed, Sandhill Crane hunting can harm populations.
• Wisconsin’s Sandhill Crane population has recovered from very low numbers over the last 50 years. However, in contrast to most game bird species, Sandhill Cranes reproduce very slowly. Many individuals first nest at 4-5 years of age, lay two eggs, and typically only one hatchling survives to fledging.
• Hunting has been a threat to other crane species around the world. It led in part to the near extinction of Whooping Cranes in North America and the demise of the western and central Asian populations of Critically Endangered Siberian Cranes.
• A hunt design must take into consideration the potential for overharvest of localized breeding populations of Sandhill Cranes. To protect these important populations, we need to identify the number and location of fall migratory birds in relation to local breeding birds in the state.
2. Hunting is not a solution for Sandhill Crane crop damage. The International Crane Foundation is actively involved in solving this problem.
• Fall Sandhill Crane hunting will not solve crane damage to corn, which occurs in the spring (the cranes feed on the germinating corn seed after planting).
• The International Crane Foundation played a key role in developing an effective chemical deterrent (Avipel) that offers a much better alternative for reducing crop damage than a limited crane hunt. The total area that farmers have chosen to treat has grown every year since we first received permission to deploy the technique from the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2006. Learn more about this research and the use of Avipel to stop crop damage, and download the fact sheet Protect your corn from cranes.
• Because the cranes will continue feeding on other food items (such as insects) in Avipel-treated crops, this approach doesn’t move the crane crop damage problem to another field as with other deterrents.
3. Accidental shooting of Whooping Cranes is a threat to their successful reintroduction into Wisconsin and the eastern US.
• The International Crane Foundation and partners have worked for 17 years to reintroduce the endangered Whooping Crane to Wisconsin. This small and young population is highly vulnerable to any deaths of adult breeding birds (read about the recent shooting of a breeding female in Indiana).
• A Sandhill Crane hunting season would increase the risk of the accidental shooting of Whooping Cranes and require extensive effort to avoid these risks. Since the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership established the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes in 2001, over 10 Whooping Crane shootings have occurred in the population, accounting for over 20% of the population’s mortality.
The International Crane Foundation is a trusted source of information on Sandhill Cranes and their management. Through 22 years of research on Sandhill Cranes and hosting of the Annual Midwest Crane Count, the International Crane Foundation has a unique database and understanding of Sandhill Cranes. We share this knowledge through our website and direct discussion with stakeholders concerned about the hunt decision or any other conservation issue involving Sandhill Cranes.
It is critical to get involved in the discussion about Sandhill Crane hunting. Voice your opinion through the following forums:
Click here to view the location of your county Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearing on Monday, April 10.
Contact your State Representative and share your views on a possible Sandhill Crane hunt in Wisconsin: Directory of State Legislatures
Federal and state conservation agencies have created a management plan for the Eastern Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes that identifies the framework for hunting in this population: