Michigan lawmakers take aim at Eastern Sandhill Cranes

Proposed Sandhill Crane hunting season brings reactions
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:39 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan lawmakers are trying to pass a resolution that would allow people to hunt Eastern Sandhill Cranes. Those in favor of the resolution say that the cranes are overpopulated and threatening to farmers.

Known for their bright red forehead and sandy gray feathers, the Eastern Sandhill Cranes population has taken off in recent decades. This spike in population comes after years of dwindling numbers.

Heather Good, executive director of the Michigan Audubon, says that the bird is believed to be one of the oldest living avian species in North America.

“Many people are connected with Michigan’s native wildlife -- and a species as old and as treasured as the sandhill crane is important to a lot of people and a lot of groups,” said Good.

The Crane was given special protection under the federal Migratory Bird Act and over the past century has been protected from hunting. Groups like the Michigan Audubon have helped protect and recover the bird back to stable numbers. They believe the proposed resolution could change this.

“This is a bird that just simply doesn’t behave like a traditional game species and we would run the risk of within a few decades... potentially seeing it go endangered,” said Good.

The resolution calls on the Natural Resources Commission to remove protections that would make Sandhill Cranes game to hunt. Advocates are urging lawmakers to oppose this, saying that the bird remains at risk.

“Our stance has been that while there’s no argument that one could do it... the question of whether or not we should do this is really important to a lot of Michigan residents-- wildlife watchers, naturalists, people who appreciate birds and nature,” said Good.

The current U.S. Fish and Wildlife Guidelines require the population of cranes to be above 30 thousand to be eligible for hunting. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources told News Ten that Michigan alone has between 20 thousand and 25 thousand Cranes.

The Michigan United Conservation Club wants these hunting protections removed. Amy Trotter, the executive director, says that hunting is a solution for population control.

" We believe hunters are going to be the best and most motivated individuals to help lower the population into fitting within the carrying capacities of the habitats--- and hopefully reducing the overall population into what fits within the plan that we have the available habitat for,” said Trotter.

However, advocates say it’s too risky.

“It’s not a bird that’s currently close to endangerment. However, because of the way it reproduces.. it can be very much a risk to take a bird like a sandhill crane and hunt it. Because they might only have one or two chicks a year,” said Good.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources told News Ten that implementing a Sandhill Crane hunt is not a high priority within their department. They also said that the steps needed to implement Crane hunting would take time and would not be approved for this hunting season.

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