After attending the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting about the proposed hunting of sandhill cranes, we were dismayed at the lack of science presented and at the pre-conceived and biased conclusion apparent with the department’s presentation and issue paper.
I have a biology degree and a Ph.D. and was disappointed with the lack of scientific biological data presented. The data that showed extreme swings in the population first was used as evidence and then, when questioned, was said to be a rough estimate. The issue paper indicates the 10-year average for the area is 634 cranes, but that average is misleading because the population swings within the data are significant.
In the issue paper, the author attributes opposition to the proposal as emotional from bird lovers fundamentally opposed to crane hunting without acknowledging the emotions of crane hunters as equally passionate, such as a love of hunting, fear of losing hunting rights and hatred of anyone opposed to their position. Emotions are emotions, and facts are facts. Unfortunately, we had too many emotions and too few facts.
The science is not there to show that hunting is an appropriate thing to do at this time. There is no biological data to approve this proposal — only the emotional needs of the hunters and a few anecdotal comments from local landowners who claim crop damage. The hunting season will not change the crop damage. We pay landowners for crop damage from elk, deer, etc.
Colorado hunters can hunt midcontinent cranes in Colorado on the Eastern Slope — many hunters travel there already to hunt pheasant and other non-mountain birds.
Parks and Wildlife’s own website lists county occurrence in Colorado as mostly unknown, including Moffat County. Routt County is listed as the only county where the occurrence is fairly common, with Rio Blanco and Mesa county occurrences as rare. Parks and Wildlife does not even post up-to-date or accurate information.
We were surprised at the extremely emotional and inaccurate commentary from Tom Willman in the Steamboat Pilot & Today (“Welcome to SteamBoulder,” April 29). In his commentary, he denigrated what should be a scientific argument to name calling — “SteamBoulder” — and ridiculing “ultimately ignorant folks” who “mean business ... and are working every day to take away your hunting privileges and rights ...” If those statements aren’t emotion edging to hysteria, we don’t know what fear mongering is. He indicated that people were deaf to the facts, but only the facts as he saw them. People like facts that support their opinions and needs and not other facts.
We personally have observed cranes in Routt and Moffat counties for many years and have seen and heard very few cranes in our watching areas — Routt County Roads 42 and 44 and near Steamboat Springs Airport. Has the number declined this past winter? We need to know this.
We think Colorado Parks and Wildlife needs to provide a comprehensive scientific study before allowing any hunting of this species and provide biological data that the hunt is necessary and not meeting an emotional need. Emotions are emotions, and facts are critical to this proposal.
Lynn Kelley, Ph.D., and Jim Kelley