Sandhill Crane Hunt Vote To Go Forward In Tennessee On Friday

Will Tennessee get a sandhill crane hunt this year? The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission is meeting Thursday at 1 PM in Knoxville to vote on whether or not to allow the somewhat controversial hunt of the leggy migratory birds.

According to Times Free Press, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will ask officials to vote in favor of a sandhill crane hunt on up to 2,300 birds.

TWRA spokesman Dan Hicks said that the population of the migratory birds has exploded. In 1969, there were eight or less. Now there are 70,000.

TWRA will argue that the number of sandhill cranes is so high that it’s putting pressure on ducks and geese, which are falling in numbers.

But the proposal is not popular with everyone. Well-known bird artist Julie Zickefoose posted an extended argument against the Tennessee crane hunt in her blog.

She noted that the sandhill cranes are potent ambassadors to nature and often an important economic engine in the refuges they visit. As an example, she said crane tourism to Lillian Annette Rowe Sanctuary on Nebraska’s Platte River brings $10 million into that local economy each year.

The Tennessee Tribune reported last week that both former President Jimmy Carter and world-renowned primate researcher Jane Goodall have now stepped forward to oppose the Tennessee sandhill crane hunt.

sandhill crane hunt Tennessee
flying sandhill cranes in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

In his letter to the commission, Carter acknowledges that he too is a hunter. However, he opposes the sandhill crane hunt for the practical reason that some people might confuse sandhill cranes and the critically endangered whooping crane.

That concern has been partly addressed by the proposed law. Anyone seeking a crane hunt permit will be required to take a course that proves they can tell the two species apart.

Jane Goodall said she would be prepared to help promote non-hunting sandhill crane tourism in the region as an alternative to hunting.

It is indeed surprising how many sandhill cranes now visit Tennessee. Here’s a YouTube video of the Sandhill cranes flying free in the state from winter 2013:

The August meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will be held at the Holiday Inn Knoxville West at Cedar Bluff. There will be a discussion starting at 1 PM on Thursday. The voting will begin on 9 AM on Friday.

There appear to be intelligent arguments on both sides of the Tennessee sandhill crane hunt issue. I’m happy to hear yours in the comments.

[flying sandhill cranes by Elaine Radford][sandhill crane pair top photo credit: Dawn Huczek via photopin cc]