Songbird Protection Coalition

Michigan Audubon, state’s oldest conservation organization, opposes proposal to hunt Sandhill Cranes

Lansing, MI (October 20, 2017)  –  Michigan Audubon, state’s oldest conservation organization,
opposes proposal to hunt sandhill cranes.

Michigan Audubon, the state’s oldest conservation organization, is opposed to a recent legislative resolution introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives urging the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to authorize an open hunting season on sandhill cranes. Introduced on September 20, House Resolution 0154 was sponsored by James Lower (R-District 70). While the resolution is non-binding, it does signal to the NRC that powerful lobbying interests support the introduction of an annual statewide sandhill crane hunting season.

The resolution was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. The committee, chaired by Gary Howell (R-District 82), accepted testimony for and against the resolution on October 4, 2017, and subsequently voted 5-4 in support of the resolution on October 11, 2017. The resolution was adopted by the Michigan House of Representatives on October 18, 2017.

Previously, in response to a measure encouraging the exploration of sandhill crane and mourning dove hunting seasons in Michigan passed by the members of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs attending their annual convention in June, Michigan Audubon issued a preliminary statement of opposition. According to Heather Good, Michigan Audubon’s Executive Director, “Since its inception in 1904, the Michigan Audubon community has consistently supported and fought for protections for Sandhill Cranes. We will continue that fight and believe strongly that these majestic birds should remain protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.” This legislation makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

Due to overhunting and loss of wetland habitat, the Sandhill Crane population in Michigan hit an all-time low in the early 1900s and was in jeopardy of extinction throughout the state for many decades. In 1941, Michigan Audubon established the Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary as the first North American sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of a crane species, the Sandhill Crane, in Bellevue, Mich. Founded in part by Dr. Lawrence Walkinshaw, considered to be “the father of international crane studies,” the sanctuary was home to some of the few remaining nesting pairs of sandhill cranes in the state at the time of its establishment. With additional efforts by local Michigan Audubon chapters such as the Jackson Audubon Society, who has actively managed and maintained the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary for breeding and migrating Sandhill Cranes, the bird’s eastern population has recovered.

Rachelle Roake, Conservation Science Coordinator for Michigan Audubon, indicated that “while Michigan’s Sandhill Crane population is healthy, it is likely a source population for neighboring regions where populations are still recovering.” In neighboring states such as Ohio, Sandhill Cranes are still considered endangered.

Crop damage caused by Sandhill Cranes is often cited by hunting proponents for the opening of a hunting season. “While we recognize that Sandhill Cranes do inflict some crop damage, an open hunting season is not the solution,” responded Roake. “Recently-seeded corn fields can be an attractive food source for cranes, but broadly reducing the crane population will not change that fact. However, newly developed, non-toxic chemical seed coatings have the potential to redirect Sandhill Cranes to consume insect pests in corn fields and avoid the seed, resulting in a win-win for farmers.”

In addition to preventative seed coatings, Michigan has an established management tool for farmers experiencing issues with Sandhill Cranes. Impacted farmers can apply for permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that allow for legal hunting of problematic individual Sandhill Cranes.

“Cranes evoke a strong sense of appreciation and connection for many people in Michigan and around the world. Appreciating, understanding, and protecting these birds and ensuring their welfare into the future is work significant to Michigan Audubon’s history and mission,” Good said.

Michigan Audubon -- in partnership with other conservation organizations such as the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition and Detroit Audubon -- plan to encourage members and supporters to express their opposition of considering the Sandhill Crane a game species and opening a hunting season on these birds to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

See MAS FAQ here.


About Michigan Audubon

Michigan Audubon is a non-profit conservation organization based in Okemos, Mich. Michigan Audubon connects birds and people for the benefit of both, through conservation, education, and research efforts in the state of Michigan. Visit www.michiganaudubon.org for more information.