Friday, July 23, 2010

Target: Sandhill Cranes

The sandhill crane is one of the oldest bird species in North America. Fossil records suggest that ancestors of the sandhill crane were probably walking the marshes of North America around 9 million years ago, well before man showed up on the continent. When man arrived in North America they honored and revered these large and beautiful birds. Cranes played a part in many Native American stories and legends and their image was often included in Native American art. When the Europeans came to North America things changed. Cranes were hunted for their feathers and meat and by the 1940s there were probably fewer then 1000 greater sandhill cranes.
Fortunately the sandhill crane has fared better then the other 14 species of cranes in the world. Through careful conservation they have bounced back and now the greater sandhill crane population numbers over 100,000 with the lesser sandhill crane population numbering over 500,000. Most of this population is migratory through the central portion of the continent, although there are several non-migrant subspecies which are still endangered. In some parts of North America where sandhill cranes originally existed they are still threatened or endangered, such as Washington and Ohio. In Minnesota we have a healthy resident population but we see much larger numbers in the spring and fall when the birds migrate. This fall the Minnesota DNR has arranged for a hunting season for sandhill cranes for the first time in the modern era. For only $3.50 you can kill these birds that many people, most of them not hunters, gave their blood, sweat, tears and coins to save and help protect. Did they ask any of these people for their input on the idea of hunting these birds? No they did not ask for any one's input the DNR just went off and made a unilateral decision with out public hearing or any published studies into the affect that hunting in Minnesota might have on the crane population.
To please the hunters, real men hunt with a camera and not a gun, they snubbed the non-hunting community, which is a very poor decision since birders spend a lot more money in Minnesota, on cameras, scopes, feeders, bird seed, travel and other things, then the dwindling hunting population does. Plus there is also the fact that the federally endangered whooping crane, the only other crane species in North America, often fly with sandhill cranes making them a target for hunters who may not know the difference or care.


KaHolly said...

We had a report of a Sandhill Crane here in Nova Scotia just yesterday, a rarity! Thanks for all this info. ~karen

twobarkingdogs said...

we have a lot of sandhill cranes that come to visit at my folks house in florida. they are beaautiful (and noisy).

Mike B. said...

They visit here in northwest Oregon for a time every year. I love watching them fly with their heads extended out.