Neil Davies: Save the cranes


In an obscure conference room in Craig, a small group of unelected officials is considering whether to allow hunting of sandhill cranes in Colorado. Very recently the crane population was so small as to be an endangered species. Cranes are worldwide emblems of friendship and are a national and state treasure. Should we really be exposing them to hunter’s guns?

The idea for crane hunting is sponsored by a tiny group of hunting activists in Routt and Moffat counties. A proposal to allow hunting is being handled at the Parks and Wildlife Commission meetings. Public input is minimal and public opinion is often characterized as “emotional.” There has been no active attempt to get input from any parts of the non-hunting community. There has been no outreach to any of the wildlife advocacy groups, no attempt to engage the broad spectrum of the general public.

The crane population trends that underpin the proposal are clearly unreliable. There are wild swings in bird counts and all of the implied upswing in population can be attributed to one unexplained recent data point.

Hunting is being justified because: A) cranes consume crops that could be used for human consumption; B) because cranes are good eating; and C) because the sport of hunting requires keen instincts for the wild, keeps us close to our food supply and is generally good fun. Crane hunting would appear to fail all of these criteria.

The total proposed take is 40 to 50 birds — hardly enough to protect our food supply. There is no evidence of a history of crane cuisine in Colorado. No reputable cookbook mentions delicious crane recipes. To my knowledge, none of the Parks and Wildlife Commission members has ever eaten one. The commissioners repeat claims that “crane is the ribeye of the sky.” Maybe they should gather more data on this. The earliest use of this phrase seems to be in 2005 and may indeed have been created to market crane hunting proposals elsewhere. Recipes found on the Web speak of cooking crane with bacon, then eating the bacon but throwing away the crane.

As for sport — cranes are almost as docile as sheep. They wander through the fields grazing and even approach humans in curiosity. Shooting them is hardly the kind of sport experience to heighten our awareness of nature.

Cranes don’t just belong to the hunters. Nature tourism and just plain quality of life are maybe even more important today. All Colorado residents should have a voice, not just a few hunters and landowners. It is not OK to shoot things that enrich the lives of us all just because they wander through your airspace. Cranes are international symbols of friendship — there is no benefit from hunting them. Let’s stop this proposal now.

If, like me, you feel that there is no justification for crane hunting in Colorado, then please get involved. Attend the meetings if you can; there are only two left. The first is Friday at the Holiday Inn in Craig. The last is July 13 at the Ramada Inn in Sterling. You also can write to the commissioners directly. A list of their contacts is available here. Finally, complete the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition’s petition, which can be found at

Neil Davies

Oak Creek


Brian Kotowski 4 years, 10 months ago

"...worldwide emblems of friendship..."

Seriously? First I've heard of it. I googled various permutations of that phrase, and came up empty. Sounds like something Mr. Davies pulled out of his derriere.

"There has been no active attempt to get input from any parts of the non-hunting community."

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission sponsored an open-to-the-public meeting on the issue, which 60 people attended on April 25th. An online petition publicized by the Pilot attracted over a thousand signatories by the time that meeting was held. Mr. Davies' holier-than-thou sanctimony has either rendered him moronically ignorant, or he's just a liar. Or both.


Eric J. Bowman 4 years, 10 months ago

All this shows is you have very weak Google skills. You might try researching cranes in general, or maybe "crane symbolism", instead of searching that particular phrase -- my search netted more confirmation of this notion than I could possibly recap here, so I'll just post one example:

"...Shortly after the end of World War II, the folded origami cranes also came to symbolize a hope for peace through Sadako Sasaki and her unforgettable story of perseverance. Diagnosed with leukemia after being exposed to radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima, Sadako became determined to fold 1,000 cranes in hopes of recovering good health, happiness, and a world of eternal peace. Although she completed 644 before she died, her classmates folded the remaining 356 to honor her. A statue was raised in the Hiroshima Peace Park to commemorate her strong spirit.

Today this practice of folding 1,000 cranes represents a form of healing and hope during challenging times. After the events of September 11, as a gesture of support and healing, thousands of cranes were folded and linked together in chains and sent to fire and police stations, museums, and churches throughout New York City.

Traditionally, flocks of 1,000 cranes are offered at shrines or temples with prayer, based on the belief that the effort to fold such a large number will surely be rewarded. Chains are often given to someone suffering from illness, as a prayer for their recovery, as a wish for happiness, and as an expression of sympathy and peace..."

But, I guess you were in too much of a hurry to post derogatory comments about Mr. Davies to bother with much research. Seriously, is denigrating the opposition the best argument you pro-crane-hunting folks can come up with, or is it just that you're Republicans?

"We would also like to thank members of the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee for their support and for allowing science-based wildlife management to continue in Kentucky while rejecting the emotional appeals from anti-hunting extremists."

Ah, yes, anyone who disagrees must be an "anti-hunting extremist." Note also the standard ploy of Republicans to frame their positions as "science-based." Scientifically speaking, while harvesting a limited number of cranes likely won't hurt the species, there is no scientific need to manage crane populations, as is the case for, say, turkeys (which I happen to hunt, therefore I'm no "anti-hunting extremist"). Certainly not in Colorado, where they have yet to recover their former range and numbers.


Eric J. Bowman 4 years, 10 months ago

"As for sport — cranes are almost as docile as sheep. They wander through the fields grazing and even approach humans in curiosity. Shooting them is hardly the kind of sport experience to heighten our awareness of nature."

Disagree. They may be docile most of the year, but not during the proposed season. Kentucky has allowed a three-year crane-hunt experiment which began last fall. The quota was set at 400 birds per annum. License sales met expectations, but only 50 cranes were harvested, so apparently it isn't all that easy. Regardless, whether crane hunting is a challenge or not isn't really the issue.

I'd like to see the crane-hunting opposition stick to the strong arguments. One of which is indeed emotional, not that there's anything wrong with that (unless you're the NRA). Cranes are one of the most symbolic birds on the planet. In the absence of a scientific need for human management of Greater Sandhill Crane populations, and given the fact that they aren't really good eating, this can only be seen as the sort of trophy hunting that non-hunters, and indeed responsible hunters, despise.

Insisting on killing a symbolic creature for the sake of killing, is guaranteed to provoke an emotional response which tarnishes all hunting and hunters as pro-killing extremists. And rightly so. Given the myriad uncontroversial species we can legally hunt already, is this push to hunt cranes really necessary? Or does it just cause unneeded and completely avoidable strife? Or is that the purpose behind these proposals popping up nationwide in a coordinated effort, to be a wedge issue for the NRA? I may hunt, but I refuse to be a tool for those fools.


Brian Kotowski 4 years, 10 months ago


A Japanese gesture to commemorate the dead of Hiroshima (borrowed 60+ years later in the aftermath of 9-11) = a "worldwide emblem” and therefore inviolable. Got it. 私は理解します, as my grandparents Takeshi & Kuniko might have said... and they wouldn't have bought it any more than I do.

Interesting and illuminating that you so easily give Mr. Davies a pass for posting such a blatantly false allegation, to wit: "There has been no active attempt to get input from any parts of the non-hunting community." An assertion that doesn't require even rudimentary googling skills to verify – just membership in the community and being even marginally engaged in the issue at hand.

At the end of the day, what Mr. Davies proposes can most charitably be characterized as juvenile: the assertion of an imaginary Kumbaya ethic, supported by an overtly disingenuous falsehood (that's me being charitable again).

Incidentally, I don't hunt and never have. Don't really have a dog in the fight, except that those who cloak themselves in a 5th-grade Dennis Kucinich 'let us encircle ourselves within the goddess of peace' fairy tale tend to irritate me.

It's not unusual for sandhill cranes to make an appearance on my property. If a crane season is approved, any properly credentialed hunter is welcome on my land.


rhys jones 4 years, 10 months ago

As soon as we set seasons and sell licenses, sparrows and magpies will become "gamebirds." What's in a name? A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and excrement stinks. Seems to be a lot of that here.

I would propose that the bears and cranes have a "people problem."

Eric -- I like the cut of your jib. A little common sense goes a long way.


Brian Kotowski 4 years, 10 months ago

Full disclosure to hopeful hunters: I haven't seen any cranes on the property this year. I'm within a Nolan Ryan stone's throw of the Yampa. I think the mild winter has resulted an abundant food supply along the river, so they haven't had to come looking for rodents at my place.


rhys jones 4 years, 10 months ago

Tom -- I can outshoot you any day, and I'll put money on it. We were shooting pheasants in South Dakota when the limit was five a day, and we'd go out twice. Don't tell me I don't know about our "time-honored tradition." I was the top expert in my Marine Corps series, over 300 recruits, scored 237 out of a possible 250, 10 out of 10 bullseyes at 500 meters. I can kill anything I want to. I just don't want to.

Your rants are childish gibberish, strewn with "hooey" and "garbage" as your premises to arguments. Take a course in logic, please, then return with some real evidence and facts, not your immature cries and moans, the gasps of a dying breed.

I am done addressing you here, sir. Bleat your heart out.


John Weibel 4 years, 10 months ago

Disclosure: I have no desire to hunt them and enjoy watching them...

That being said just like the influx of bobcats on my previous property which took the sage grouse population from abundant to few... though they also ate the prairie dogs - keeping them out of my potato patch - so I was generally happy... though the hopeful herbivores probably would have blamed my cattle for reducing the sage grouse populations, even though there was zero change in livestock numbers and yet a dramatic change in sage grouse numbers.

I am hopeful that the cranes do not eat all of my frogs, which keep down my numbers of insects making my life and other mammals lives more pleasant from not needing to do a dance to keep the bugs off. So while trying to manage for one variable we tend to forget how those decisions impact the whole.

The bobcats which moved in were simply one variable in the equation and yet had a dramatic impact on other variables. I am hopeful that the one variable, sandhill cranes - along with herons, do not decimate my frogs and thus increase my insect (parasite) numbers.

The dry conditions are going to provide ample opportunities for grasshoppers this year. I am hopeful that my managed species of chickens will help to reduce the numbers of hoppers this year. Management of predators - which cranes are even if they eat some grain - is probably a good thing as it can help to ensure that populations of one animal do not spike and then crash when their predators numbers increase and then crash also.

It really is a moot point at this point however, the arguments pro and con really are not thinking about the whole under management.


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