Politics & Government

Proposed sandhill crane hunt in Kentucky clears another hurdle

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a Dec. 17-Jan. 15 hunting season for sandhill cranes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also must OK it.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a Dec. 17-Jan. 15 hunting season for sandhill cranes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also must OK it.

FRANKFORT — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave preliminary approval last week to a sandhill crane hunt in Kentucky in late December.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials said Monday that a committee voted Thursday to propose a regulation allowing the hunting of sandhill cranes in Kentucky.

The regulation will be posted in the Federal Register, and people will be allowed to comment on the proposed hunting season, which was approved by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month despite strong opposition from bird watchers and environmentalists.

The rule is expected to be published in the register, which includes notices of proposed changes to federal regulations, by the end of July, federal officials said Monday.

The state commissioner approved a hunt that would begin Dec. 17 and last 30 days, or until 400 sandhill cranes were killed. Kentucky is one of the first states east of the Mississippi to propose a sandhill crane hunt.

Sandhill cranes, which often have wingspans of six to eight feet, have not been hunted in Kentucky and most of the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard since the early 1900s. Popular crane-viewing spots include Barren River Lake in Western Kentucky and Cecilia in Hardin County. Cranes are typically hunted for sport and for their meat.

Since the turn of the century, sandhill crane numbers have rebounded. Conservative estimates are that 60,000 sandhill cranes are in the Midwest and Eastern seaboard.

Alicia King, communications coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife migratory bird program, said a final decision will not be made by the federal agency until August, when the public-comment period is complete.

Meanwhile, Kentucky officials have filed an administrative regulation in Frankfort that outlines details of the hunt.

According to the regulation, anyone older than 16 with a valid hunting license will be able to apply for a sandhill crane permit starting Oct. 15. Each hunter will be required to take a post-hunt survey by Jan. 25. If a survey is not completed, the hunter will not be eligible for a sand hill crane permit the following year.

The administrative regulation will be reviewed by a legislative committee. However, the committee may not kill an administrative regulation. The panel may find the proposal deficient, but Gov. Steve Beshear may override that finding.

If there is public comment on the regulation, which is expected, it probably will be reviewed by the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee at its September meeting.

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