Plenty of reasons to oppose hunting sandhill cranes
Are you really that hungry that you need to shoot sandhill cranes? These are beautiful, graceful birds that we are privileged to enjoy. They inspire us as parents in the way they devotedly care for their young, usually two chicks. One stays close to the father and the other close to the mother. I photograph them in Florida where they stay year-round and in Michigan where they nest.
There are many other species that could provide food if that is what is needed, but not these nor swans, blue herons or eagles. A poem comes to mind; it goes something like this: "A fowler's eye might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong as darkly painted on the crimson sky thy figure floats along."
Appreciate nature, don't destroy it.
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Public opinion says no
The recent approval to remove the protective status after 100 years and kill 400 sandhill cranes seems as unpopular as government killing Medicare.
As a hunter, I am concerned that this will fuel anti-hunting sentiment and damage conservation funding.
How will it negatively affect public sentiment? Or donations to the Kentucky non-game tax checkoff or the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund (which gave $4.5 million to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for habitat from 2005-09) or partnerships and gifts from major corporations to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation?
Why would a corporation want its name associated with killing Big Bird? How will it affect eco-tourism where existing jointly-run Parks/F&W guided tours charge $30 a head just to view these magnificent birds in the Barren River Lake area?
Only two-thirds of youth in hunting families participate in the sport, so the main source of funding conservation is unsustainable. Who will pay for wildlife stewardship?
According to Fish and Wildlife's Web site, wildlife watching is the fastest growing recreational activity in the world. In the U.S., wildlife watching generates more than $45 billion a year. In Kentucky, more people watch birds than play golf.
Eco-tourists are the future of conservation and hunting in Kentucky. Hunters need alliances with them, not to drive them away by killing one of our most watchable birds.
Why are we surprised that sandhill cranes can now be hunted? The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources exists to help hunters and anglers. Why were magnificent elk introduced to Kentucky? So people could shoot them.
What's next? Canned hunts where "sportsmen" stand in the back of a pickup and shoot exotic caged animals? Wow, what fun that should be. Pay your money and shoot something.
Why does the Herald-Leader continue to print stories about rescued racehorses? Why not send a reporter to investigate where the vast majority of them end up? That would be Mexican slaughterhouses. Are you afraid of the wrath of horsemen?
The truth is the ban on U.S. killing horses has only hurt. They are loaded onto trucks and sent to Mexico, where they are sometimes stabbed to death. I have photos and films. What pleasant viewing.
Americans can feel proud. No slaughterhouses in America means the horses have to suffer terrible deaths. Many are either left to starve or are tortured to death in Mexico. Let's hear it for the horsemen who just love their horses.
Is the answer that humans do not want to hear truth? That they would rather be ignorant and blissful? Guess that's it.
As a Kentuckian, outdoorsman and part-time hunter, I am interested in any changes to the current wildlife management system.
That said, I fail to understand why our state needs a crane season. Are they pests or a potential food source? It seems the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources sees it as a way to boost revenue due to declining license sales. If revenue is a problem, spare the cranes and look at other options.
Otherwise, killing cranes for sport in order to raise revenue is shortsighted. This is only going to cause folks to care even less about hunters and their rights.
Will hurt tourism
I find it so hard to believe that my beautiful state of Kentucky has chosen to sell some of its most magnificent, treasured, visitors for a few paltry dollars. Do you assume that no tourists will be visiting our state between Dec. 17 and Jan. 15 so you can do this foul deed in secrecy?
Or maybe you would like to host an event so that tourists and residents can come and watch the killing of these stately birds?
And why waste your bullets on this adventure? These gentle creatures will allow you to walk right up to them — so why not just grab one or two away from their families and take them home? I'm certain you can find a way to kill them without using your treasured bullets. Oh wait — that would take away the fun of aiming and firing at something.
A privilege to observe
What in sandhill are they thinking? The sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is not a game bird, or prized for food. I have been privileged to observe them on two occasions. Both times I was alerted by their distinctive repetitive, vibrant honking, happily on their way as I stood in awe.
John James Audubon, the noted wildlife artist and ornithologist wrote in 1813 about the passenger pigeon as "wonderfully abundant ... the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse." He also warned of the threats to their enormous flocks, from hunting and loss of habitat.
His warnings were prophetic, as 100 years later the last passenger pigeon died. The numbers of sandhill cranes are nowhere near those of the now-extinct pigeon.
We take for granted the species that share our world, rarely aware of the environmental stresses that affect them. The honey bee is currently a threatened species, one very valuable to our own existence.
We have a great deal of respect for the normally fine work of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in promoting habitat preservation, protection of our wildlife, and in providing opportunities for responsible hunting and fishing for the public.
But a hunting season for the sandhill crane has little or no justification.
Don J. and Pat Dampier