Proposed Colorado Sandhill Crane Hunting Season Faces Opposition


Hundreds of petition signatures have been gathered in opposition to a sandhill crane hunting season in Colorado according to Steamboat Today. Opponents to the proposed season say the birds are a symbol of Colorado’s respect for wildlife.

On April 25 the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (PWC) held discussions over a new limited autumn hunting season for sandhill cranes in Routt and Moffat counties. PWC officials say no more than 20 to 50 licenses with a limit of one bird per hunter would be issued to hunters in the two counties.

PWC is scheduled to make a decision on the proposal during a meeting July 12 and 13 in Sterling. Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins told Steamboat Today that his staff has found no biological reason the crane population could not sustain limited hunting pressure.

Though the bird is historically known to be overhunted, its populations have seen a fairly dramatic recovery since the mid-20th century, according to Parks and Wildlife Avian Research Leader Jim Gammonley. He said that the number of birds staging to migrate in Northwest Colorado has been estimated to be greater than 20,000 for the past five years. Still, there would only be up to 50 permits issued in the first two seasons with the number of permits increasing modestly over the seasons to account for hunter success ratios (it’s rare that hunters enjoy a 100 success rate).

Although cranes have been hunted in North America for a long time, the idea is always met with opposition from a lot of people. “A lot of people just don’t like the idea, and for others, they are a pretty prized game bird,” Gammonley said. “In every case that new hunting has been proposed, it has been highly emotional and controversial.”

Sandhill cranes were listed by the state as endangered in the late 1970s, but delisted in the 1990s, but they are still a species of special concern. It’s partially because cranes hatch no more than two eggs every year, and often one of the chicks, or colts, does not survive.

“It’s easier to over-harvest cranes through hunting than other birds,” Gammonley said. “The cranes can sustain hunting pressure, but most populations that are hunted are always carefully managed.”

A poll on Steamboat Today shows that out of 141 total votes (as of 1:30 pm April 30), 102 people (72 percent) are against the proposed crane hunting season. Thirty-five people (or 25 percent) of voters are in favor; four people, or approximately 3 percent are undecided.

Sandhill cranes are hunted in Kentucky as of December 2011, while Wisconsin is also debating whether to allow a hunting season, but does face some opposition. Whooping cranes, on the other hand, are endangered and highly protected.

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