Songbird Protection Coalition

Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

June 26, 2017

Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition opposes proposals to hunt mourning doves and sandhill cranes,
urging it does not reflect state tradition

LANSING MI - The Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition joins thousands of Michigan citizens in opposing efforts to allow the hunting of mourning doves and sandhill cranes.

The coalition calls on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its governing body, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC), along with the Michigan legislature, to reject proposals by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) to undo more than a century of protections for the two iconic species.

"Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected a mourning dove hunting season in 2006 because they did not want these peaceful birds to be killed for target practice. Mourning doves are not overpopulated, do not cause crop damage, and 30 percent are crippled and unretrieved by hunters," said Julie Baker, director of the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition.

In addition to being protected in Michigan for more than 100 years, mourning doves were given additional protection in 2016 by a law prohibiting the NRC from adding any species to the game species list that had been rejected by public referendum prior to May 14, 2013 - namely, mourning doves.

Sandhill cranes, meanwhile, are a vulnerable and recovering species that were nearly wiped out in Michigan by the mid-20th century due to hunting and loss of habitat.

"The fact that their population has begun to stabilize is surely due to a sound non-game conservation policy," said Baker.

According to Baker, MUCC's move to urge a sandhill crane hunt appears to reverse its earlier position on the issue. A Sept. 19, 2014 article by Howard Meyerson in
The Outdoor Journal quoted an MUCC spokeswoman as saying: "We're not interested in pushing it (sandhill crane hunting)."

The Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition hopes the spokeswoman's words continue to ring true. Sandhill cranes are often described as majestic in flight and their trumpeting call is considered one of the most unique sounds in nature. They are so beloved by "birders" and other nature enthusiasts that each October, a Sandhill Crane Festival is held in southern Michigan, near Bellevue, that attracts visitors from across Michigan and beyond.

The facts:

  • There is no management need to hunt mourning doves, which would be shot only for target practice. Mourning doves are not overpopulated, do not cause nuisance problems and have very little meat on their tiny bodies.
  • Scientific studies also indicate that more than 30 percent of mourning doves shot in state-sanctioned hunts are wounded but not killed immediately.
  • Michigan has a strong hunting tradition, and there are plenty of game species for hunters to pursue. Mourning dove shooting, however, has never been part of our state's outdoors tradition.
  • The sandhill crane is Michigan's largest bird, with a wingspan reaching up to seven feet. Sandhill cranes mate for life, but breeding takes time. It often takes four to seven years before the cranes breed, making them among the slowest reproducing birds in North America.
  • There is not a clear consensus on sandhill crane numbers in Michigan.
  • This, combined with other existing challenges to sandhill crane persistence that include a slow reproduction rate, disease, poisoning by ingesting lead ammunition and tackle, collisions with power lines, and other hazards, indicates a lack of sufficient evidence that a sport hunting season would not hinder continued recovery of sandhill cranes.
  • If sandhill cranes are damaging crops, Michigan farmers may obtain a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to control conflicts caused by those migratory birds on corn farms adjacent to prime wetland habitats. But biologists and researchers agree: a fall hunting season would not provide direct assistance to crop areas impacted by sandhill cranes that occurs in the spring. Groups like the International Crane Foundation have worked at developing a non-toxic and non-lethal chemical deterrent called Avipel, which is more effective than lethal control in reducing crop damage by sandhill cranes.
  • The Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition is a group of Michigan citizens that includes hunters, biologists, bird hobbyists, environmentalists, farmers and animal welfare advocates, among others.

For more information about our call to action to prevent hunting of mourning doves and sandhill cranes and, please visit the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition website: www.songbirdprotection.com