Songbird Protection Coalition

Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                           

September 21, 2017                                                         

Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition opposes proposal to hunt sandhill cranes

The Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition denounces the introduction of a state House resolution that encourages the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to add sandhill cranes to the game species list and seek U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval to establish a sandhill crane hunting season.  The resolution,
HR 154, was introduced on September 20 by Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake).

“There is no scientific or wildlife management justification for opening a recreational hunting season on Michigan’s sandhill cranes,” said Julie Baker, Director of the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition.  “Non-lethal mitigation measures already exist to protect crops from conflict by sandhill cranes, and farmers can also obtain lethal control permits when necessary.  Even the USDA has acknowledged a lack of evidence that hunting or other lethal means of removing sandhill cranes actually reduces crop damage.”

At its June 2017 annual meeting, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) called for legalizing recreational hunts on sandhill cranes and mourning doves, despite more than a century of legal protection of these two iconic bird species.

“The Michigan Natural Resources Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not tamper with the decades-long protection of sandhill cranes, and should not cater to the misguided demands of a small minority of radical lobby interests,” said Baker.  “The NRC was created to represent all Michigan citizens, and that includes the
majority who want to keep traditional protections in place for Michigan’s non-game birds.”

Sandhill cranes are a vulnerable and recovering species that was nearly wiped out in Michigan by the mid-20th century due to hunting and loss of habitat.  Because of sound, scientific non-game conservation policy, their population has begun to stabilize.  Often described as majestic in flight, 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, “CraneFest,” a sandhill crane festival, is held near Bellevue in southern Michigan, attracting thousands of visitors from across Michigan and beyond.

More facts about sandhill cranes:

    •       Michigan has a strong hunting tradition, and there are already dozens of game species for hunters to pursue.

    •       The sandhill crane is Michigan’s largest bird, with a wingspan reaching up to seven feet.  Sandhill cranes mate for life, but pair bonding and 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 no clear consensus on sandhill crane
population numbers in Michigan.  This, combined with other existing challenges to sandhill crane persistence that include a slow reproduction and recruitment 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 affecting corn seed planted near prime wetland habitats, 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 occurring 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 issues 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