Neil Davies: Save the cranes
June 4, 2012
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.
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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 http://www.tinyurl.com/savethecranes.