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Jane Goodall, Jimmy Carter Speak Out Against Crane Hunting

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An August 13, 2013 story in the Tennessee Tribune had an arresting headline: My jaw dropped when I read it. 

Jane Goodall and Jimmy Carter Join Advocates in Opposing Crane Hunting

Photo by Cynthia Routledge

Whoo! This is BIG. 

It's one thing for someone like me to make a fuss about crane hunting. But when a former president and the world's most eminent primatologist/conservationist speak out, people sit up and listen.
And yet, it makes so much sense that Dr. Goodall and President Carter would oppose a crane hunt. 

Tennessee is the midpoint in the migratory path of eastern whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida, and is one of the best places to see these towering, critically endangered white birds. 

President Carter wrote a letter to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, saying: 

“I am an avid hunter of quail, dove, turkey, geese, ducks, and other game fowl, but have for years been a strong vocal and financial supporter of the effort to protect Whooping Cranes and to reestablish the flock that flies over our farm in southwestern Georgia – and also over parts of Tennessee. I understand that your commission is contemplating opening hunting for Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee, and it is obvious that this will make it highly likely that Whooping Cranes might also be killed.”

Why not shoot the mottled one? It's a little different...
Juvenile whooping crane feeding with sandhills. Photo by Cynthia Routledge

To me, the voice of an avid hunter, coming out against hunting sandhill cranes, carries even more weight than that of an average citizen. When he's a former president who happens to be a birder and conservationist, it would behoove TFWC to listen hard.

A full 62% of Tennesseans oppose hunting sandhill cranes. Why, then, would TFWC try to push this unpopular hunt through, the way Kentucky did? I've made the point in past blogposts that sandhill cranes 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 of Kearney, Nebraska every year. All without firing a single shot. 

A typical roost gathering, as viewed from a blind. Photo by Cynthia Routledge.

Jane Goodall wrote this in a letter to TFWC:

“For many, cranes are symbols of peace, a message they carry around the world. The idea that these birds could be hunted for sport is distressing to me, and would be to many others...It is clear that the Sandhills foraging and roosting in freedom during their stay in Tennessee, attracting visitors to view them and other local species, offer a good deal more all round than if hunters are permitted to kill them.”

It feels good to know that Jane Goodall and Jimmy Carter are behind those of us who think a sandhill crane hunt is at best ill-advised and at worst obscene. This isn't about controlling crane populations. It's more about putting something new and different on Tennessee's menu of shootable wildlife. Well, the majority of Tennesseans, and a lot of hunters, think sandhill cranes make very poor game birds. If just 39% of nests raise just one colt per year, a pressing need for population control is hardly the driving force behind this hunt. 

photo courtesy International Crane Foundation

In fact, population growth has stopped in seven out of eight Wisconsin nesting areas, and crane nesting success is extremely poor in marginal habitats. High nest predation (cranes are ground nesters, vulnerable to coyotes, raccoons and foxes ) and high juvenile mortality take care of most cranes before they ever get a chance to grow up and make the flight south with their parents.

photo courtesy International Crane Foundation

 And TFWC is proposing to let people shoot into those tight-knit family groups, shattering longstanding pair bonds and making orphans of inexperienced crane colts.

Share this post; email, call or write TFWC; show up at the meeting in Knoxville on August 22 and 23, 2013; voice your opposition. Yes, the "official" deadline for comments has come and gone, but that doesn't stop us from making our concerns known. Here are some contacts:

Governor Bill Haslam
State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243
Business: (615) 741-2001 

Ed CarterTWRA Director Ellington Agricultural Ctr.
PO Box 40747
Nashville, TN 37207

Dr. Jeff McMillin (2012-2017), TFWC Chairman  (Statewide)
 1705 Edgemont Avenue
Bristol, TN 37620-4307
(423) 968-1933 
Thanks to Cyndi Routledge for her invaluable help with this fight and this post.


Thanks for keeping folks aware, Julie. Conservation is a beautiful thing and you are doing good work.


Just mailed to the three "gentlemen" whose emails you included in this post:

Crane hunting in Tennessee? NO, SIRREE!

Dear sirs,

I hope you are getting INUNDATED with calls, letters and emails from us common people opposed to opening a season on Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee . . . just in case former President Carter and world-renowned conservationist Jane Goodall don't have any sway with you.

Why would you even be considering a season on Sandhill Cranes? A considerable majority (62% at last check) of Tennesseans oppose it, and many other states like Nebraska (where I graduated from college) find it financially beneficial to PROTECT them and reap MILLIONS of dollars from tourists who come to see them ALIVE! What you are proposing does not make sense. Please don't follow Kentucky's shameful example; allow the Sandhill Crane to migrate through your beautiful state unmolested forever.

My family is planning to attend a weeklong professional convention in Nashville this December. We will make other plans if you pass this proposed hunt against the tide of public opinion and your state's financial best interests.

Yay! I'm glad to see famous people are supporting this cause.

Excellently written!!! I just posted on facebook. Thank you !!!

Excellently written. Just posted to facebook and have sent emails.

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