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Managed hunting of sandhill cranes is correct choice

David Gneiser
Letter to the Editor

Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and three Canadian provinces allow sandhill crane hunting. In some states, the crane hunt has occurred for over 60 years.

Crane numbers in Wisconsin have increased dramatically in the past decade to where the population can easily support a managed harvest. As with so many species in nature, over population without harvesting, leads to the introduction of disease to thin the numbers an unpleasant alternative to logical control by hunting.

We see this confirmed recently in mange, rabies, in fur bearing animals who no longer are harvested due to low fur market prices. And obviously, the vast numbers of sandhills seen in farm fields do not “socially distance” setting the stage for disease spreading, only a matter of when this occurs.

Several years ago in 2013 USDA-Wildlife Services in Wisconsin received 265 complaints of an estimated $1.9 million dollars in farm crop damages. It has only gotten much worse since then. One crane can eat up to 800 kernels of seed corn each day and that adds up over a typical 20 day spring corn emergence period.

Lacking a hunting season, Wisconsin farmers are stuck with no effective options. Rich Beilfuss, the International Crane Foundation, sang the praises of Avipel seed treatment which helps some but doesn’t always work. He goes on to suggest “tax breaks” and “incentives”.

What? No mention of the ICF compensating farmers for Avipel costs. Oh, the ICF wants someone else to foot the bill, namely Wisconsin taxpayers. Well, no thank you ICF. Just pony up the $10-12 per acre to reimburse Wisconsin farmers for that Avipel seed treatment since you selfishly refuse to allow managed hunting. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that check in the mail. 

Sales of hunting licenses, stamps, permits, and other outdoor sports related fees have provided essential funding for wildlife conservation in every state. Beilfuss posted the choice of choosing between crop depredation and saving wildlife. That is a false choice. The correct choice is gaining added revenue through managed hunting, and controlling the crane population down to sustainable numbers. Fewer but healthier wildlife. Plus WI hunters will gain an additional recreational opportunity. That is truly a win-win.

David Gneiser

Berlin, WI