The sandhill crane hunting proposal developed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) has reached the administrative approval level in the form of a proposed regulation that is moving toward a state legislative vote. If this regulation succeeds in passing and if the hunting proposal meets the regulatory standards of the USFWS, Kentucky will become the first state to open a hunting season on the eastern population of greater sandhill cranes since the population's near extinction.
No population modeling has yet been done for the Eastern Population of Sandhill Cranes (EP). The harvest rate proposed for the commonwealth of Kentucky alone could consume a substantial portion of the productivity of the breeding crane population in the Upper Midwest. Data from one study in Wisconsin suggests that, in the last decade an average of one in three nests fledged a chick each year. If this rate of productivity is comparable for the EP as a whole, 1500 nesting crane territories would be needed to produce the cranes proposed for harvest in Kentucky. In addition, the fledging rate is declining so the reproduction rate seen in most recent years might be more relevant. In 2009 and 2010, approximately one in five nests fledged a chick to migration. Given this 18% fledging to migration rate, a harvest and crippling removal of 480 birds would require 2,800 nests to replace the hunting loss. Whether 1500 or 2800 nests, this represents a significant percentage of nesting pairs in Wisconsin and Michigan, likely the primary breeding areas for Sandhill Cranes that migrate through Kentucky.
Dr. Barzen's entire report is available at the link provided below and the data that supports his report is available to anyone through the International Crane Foundation. This is a valuable document to study for those who are interested in this important issue. It not only speaks to the breeding ecology of sandhill cranes in the east, but to problems in survey methods and problematic inferences that were used to support the hunting objective in the Management Plan for the Eastern Population of Sandhill Cranes.
What can you do now to help?
1) First and foremost, the KDFWR is holding an open comment period for the public to voice their opinion about this hunt proposal. This comment period lasts from July 1, 2011 to August 1st, 2011. Do not underestimate the power of your voice. If you are opposed to the hunting of sandhill cranes in the east, please let your voice be heard. You may be as detailed or as brief as you wish. Send your comments to the following KDFWR email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Second, visit the petition site, "No Hunting for Sandhill Cranes in the East" and support the request that the eastern population management plan be revisited and the hunting objective excluded from this plan. As I write this post, the petition is only 89 signatures short of reaching its goal of 2500. Sign it, send it to all your networks, and ask all your friends to do the same!
3) Thirdly, stay on top of this issue by visiting the KY Coalition for Sandhill Cranes website frequently. This site is easy to navigate and is full of helpful information. Keep your comments and opposition letters handy and be ready to send them wherever they are needed.
4) Fourthly, pull out your sandhill crane hunt opposition letter, the ones you sent to Tennessee and Kentucky officials, and send it to your state's US senators and congressmen. We need their help. Let them know that you are not happy with a system that does not provide for equal representation from the non-wildlife-management, scientific community and that leaves out input from the majority of citizens when considering a new species to target for hunting. The address and email of your state's US senators and congressmen can be found here.
5) Lastly, conservation is not for the faint of heart! Congratulate yourself for your efforts, your determination, and your stewardship. Then take a deep breath and be ready to go again! Conservationists are a diverse group of people, hunters and non-hunters. We won't always agree on everything, but if we keep our focus on the real issue, the well-being of the wildlife species in question, good things will happen for our world.
Links and Resources:
Kentucky Coalition for Sandhill Cranes
International Crane Foundation
Thanks to Charlie Corbeil for permission to used his beautiful sandhill crane images. Visit Charlie's photo gallery for more stunning images.
For more ideas about what to include in your KY hunt proposal opposition comments visit Julie Zickefoose's recent post: Last Gasp for Sandhill Cranes
Recent media articles on KY's sandhill crane hunt proposal. In particular read the July 10th article by Carol Besse.
Visit sandhill crane hunting for all my posts on this issue. The most recent post will be first. Scroll down and click "older" to view older posts.
For the Love of It...
...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.