Sandhill Crane Game Species Designation Update

January 16, 2018
Diane Huhn
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Sandhill Crane and Colt in water (Andrea Westmoreland)

The future of Sandhill Crane protections in Michigan is still unknown. Following the approval of House Resolution 0154 in October, the legislature and Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has not taken any further action on the issue. House Resolution 0154 encouraged the NRC to add Sandhill Cranes to the game species list and seek U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval to establish annual recreational Sandhill Crane hunting seasons in Michigan. The only comment from the NRC came from former NRC chair, John Matonich, who announced at the November 9 meeting (from the minutes):

“There is some misinformation as to the status of Sandhill cranes in Michigan. He informed that the commission had not added them to the game species list. Matonich shared the steps that would have to be taken in order to have the Sandhill crane listed as a game species. Because they are a part of the Eastern population of greater Sandhill Cranes, their management falls within the purview of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with recommendations from the Mississippi Flyway Council; the formal advisory council comprised of 17 states. If the commission considers adding them to the game species list, and subsequent to that, consider hunting, it will do so only after a thorough consideration of the science and a complete exploration of all effective alternatives that might be used singly or in combination to resolve concerns.”

Michigan Audubon is encouraged by the NRC’s intent to thoroughly consider the science and explore all effective alternatives to resolve concerns. We’ve highlighted our concerns regarding this issue in our position statement on the proposed hunt and expanded upon these concerns on our frequently asked questions page. If and when the NRC takes up the issue, Michigan Audubon will present our concerns and share the relevant science with the NRC.

Sandhill Crane Pair (Steve Byland)

The decision to add Sandhill Cranes as a game species in Michigan and propose a hunt is solely at the discretion of the NRC. If the NRC decides to designate the Sandhill Crane as a game species and seek approval from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a hunting season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently indicated that the request will be approved. During an “Ask the DNR” segment on WNMU-TV13 in Marquette in November, a DNR employee indicated the Sandhill Crane issue will be taken up late in the first quarter of 2018 (January – March).

Unfortunately, this issue will not be up for a public vote at any time. If you would like to voice your opinion, we encourage you to send a polite message to the NRC, sharing the facts and speaking up as a Michigan resident. The NRC meets monthly and posts the agenda about a week in advance on the DNR website.

Michigan residents have spoken out against both the intent to add the Sandhill Crane to the game species list and to open up a hunting season. Nearly one thousand people have voiced their opinions to Michigan Audubon via commentary postcards, which will be presented to the NRC. Here are just some of the many voices who have spoken up against this proposal.

 

Michigan residents and tourists want to keep Sandhill Cranes protected in Michigan as a non-game species because…

“Every year Sandhill Crane Festivals provide thousands of people in MI with exciting wildlife experiences. Our children need these nonlethal experiences with animals and birds!”  – Jo-Ann S., Detroit, MI

“I have traveled up to the UP every year for 8 years. I have been able to see a couple of Sandhill cranes every time and it is a beautiful sight. They should be viewed, not shot. Please – preserve these birds and their beauty for generations to come.”  – Ayumi P., Berkley, MI

“Sandhill cranes provide people with pleasant non-lethal connection with wildlife. I enjoy their presence in my nearby park and home.”        – Nydia, Brighton, MI

“I am a hunter, and I can’t think of a less challenging target than a crane. They’re huge, fly slowly, and land very slowly, not a sporting target at all.”  – Michael S., Ann Arbor, MI

“They are a marvelous bird species – a special part of nature.” – Richard N., Mt. Pleasant, MI

“They are an integral part of the wetland ecosystem in Michigan.”  – Andrew S., Ann Arbor, MI

“I enjoy seeing them on my bike rides; we have plenty of species to hunt and current law provides recourse for farmers and others if truly impacted.” – Andy D., East Lansing, MI

“They come here in summer to raise their family. I have often watched father, mother, and fledging walk around the lake, a family clacking in conversation. They add to the beauty of a Michigan summer. Seeing them, I am proud to live in a state that doesn’t hunt them – they feel safe enough to be seen.”  – Amy Y., Berkley, MI

“These lovely and stunning birds pose no threat and enhance our state aesthetically and economically.” – Robert L., Spring Lake, MI

“My life growing up on a farm tells me farmers can handle their own pesky cranes without any help from hunters.”  – Don C., Royal Oak, MI

“Farmers can obtain permits to kill cranes damaging their crops. A hunt does not go after those specific cranes. This species does not procreate enough to bounce back from this!”  – Astrid M., Ann Arbor, MI

“As a HUNTER, I do NOT see the need to kill these great birds. Let’s KEEP THEM PROTECTED!”  – John L., Grosse Ile, MI

“We have many relatives in Michigan and come 5 or more times a year. We love to watch the wildlife here.”  – Laurie L. (6 years old), Norwood, OH

 

Sandhill Cranes are a protected, non-game migratory species in our state and represent an important conservation success story, one that required collaboration between state and federal agencies, NGOs, hunters, and birdwatchers alike. Besides being an unnecessary and likely ineffective solution to a localized problem, this divisive issue is driving a wedge between these conservation-minded groups at a time when increased collaboration is needed.

What can you do to join us and support our work to ensure the Sandhill Crane population remains protected in Michigan?

Sign up for news alerts regarding the Sandhill Crane issue at our partner’s website, Songbird Protection Coalition.