Ducks and geese can lay a dozen eggs; a crane lays two, and only one colt usually survives. That youngster is still heavily dependent on its parents for guidance in its first winter of life, and yet we’re proposing to let hunters shoot right into those family units. For sport. For fun. For food, maybe, if they have enough strong marinade. Pretty gamey, I’m told. I intend never to find out for myself.
Photo by Vickie Henderson
In my view, the great irony in this whole proposal to hunt cranes is that the majority of people who are aware cranes exist feel exactly as I do, vastly outnumbering those who would like to take a shot at one. Note to Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin: Those cranes you're proposing to shoot are everyone's cranes, not just yours. They may breed in Wisconsin and pass through the southern states, but they belong to everyone, and your proposal to let a small subset of hunters fire on them is not popular with the majority who want them left alone. You are shooting yourself in the foot.
People who believe strongly in their perceived right to hunt whatever they wish can be persuasive in characterizing birders and wildlife watchers as soft-headed and silly for having an emotional connection to birds and animals, for being guided by heart and not head. I believe to my core that it is desirable to hold some species sacred. I feel that way about sandhill cranes because I have observed, from Nebraska to New Mexico, from Michigan to Ohio, that they are potent ambassadors for wild things and wild places to the many thousands of people who are moved by them. These are not necessarily birders, just ordinary people who are stirred by the sight and sound of cranes. Cranes, I submit, are worth infinitely more alive than dead. Just ask the director of the Lillian Annette Rowe Sanctuary on Nebraska's Platte River, where sandhill crane tourism brings 15,000 visitors from all 50 states and 46 foreign countries; brings more than $10 million into the local economy every year. All without firing a single shot. Wildlife watching is the fastest growing sector in tourism.
I'd love to do this experiment. Take 1,000 people who know what a sandhill crane is. What percentage of them do you think would want to bring one down with a gun? What percentage would simply want to watch one fly overhead? We haven't even begun to tap the tourism potential of live Eastern Flyway cranes, and states are already proposing to shoot them?
My Israeli friend Jonathan Meyrav, who was a founder of the Hula Valley Birding Festival, which celebrates the masses of common cranes which winter in Israel's strip of marshland, recoiled when I told him of American hunting seasons, existing and proposed, on cranes. "Absurd!" he said.
Yes. Absurd. But real, and about to be rammed down our throats. We must make our objections known, quickly.
Please, if you haven't already read OM CEO Joe Duff's Field Journal entry from July 24th regarding the proposed Sandhill Crane hunt in Tennessee.
1) The USFWS has posted the proposed rule for a Tennessee Sandhill season in the Federal Register. The Federal public comment period ends AUGUST 5, 2013. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!
2) On the state level, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) is accepting comments until AUGUST 10, 2013. Email comments toTWRA.Comment@tn.gov (with the subject line "Sandhill Crane"), Ed Carter (email@example.com), TWRA Director,and/or Dr. Jeff McMillin (firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, and please spread the word!
I've borrowed this from Operation Migration's appeal. Thank you to all who are fighting this proposal, and thank you to all who act.