Issue: State wildlife agencies in Tennessee and Kentucky are considering allowing the hunting of Sandhill Cranes. Both agencies are reviewing the issue and a decision will be forthcoming.
We, the Undersigned, strenuously oppose any change of law, administrative policy or proposal which would allow the hunting and killing of Sandhill Cranes.
We oppose the hunting of these birds for the following reasons:
1) Hunters have, can and will confuse the eastern population of the Greater Sandhill Cranes with other species, such as Whooping Cranes, Mississippi or even Florida Sandhill Cranes, resulting in the killing of non-target species and exacerbating population declines. Most crane species were extirpated from many regions of the nation and nearly exterminated in Florida and other regions due to uncontrolled feather hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Who will be policing hunters to ensure the correct species of Sandhill Crane is (potentially) hunted, as many varieties, populations and subspecies exist? Are both agencies prepared to deploy agents to enforce restrictions to ensure protected species are not hunted?
2) Claims that the birds have caused "commercial damage" and "have become a nuisance" to support resumption of hunting have been intentionally and grossly exaggerated. The complaints of three (3) farmers in Tennessee should not be used as sufficient "evidence" to re-open hunting of this species. Pro-hunting entities are attempting to use "nuisance complaints" to gerrymander wildlife policies to expand the number and types of huntable species, such as Sandhill Cranes, which are traditionally a non-game species. All policies affecting wildlife should be soundly based upon science and scientific study, not enthusiasm for blood sports or other "economic interests."
3) According to information reported by journalist Anne Paine in The Tennessean regarding provisional permits granted to complainant farmers, "While hunters praise sandhill cranes as tasty eating, those permits didn't allow them to be fixed for dinner. The bodies had to be buried, burned or turned over for educational use." The birds were not "food" for hungry humans, they were simply terminated and destroyed as a persecuted, "nuisance" species. This ultimately promotes gratuitous killing of wildlife and invalidates any claims that the birds would be "used as a food source as they cannot be consumed legally.
4) Biodiversity has not profited under human "wildlife management" in even one instance because humans tend to kill the strongest, largest and healthiest animals, removing their biological traits from the species gene pool, which is contrary to natural attrition and predation patterns evident with non-human species. Rebounds of any species to a "normal" level in relation to available habitat does not automatically indicate that human predation is warranted or sustainable. Combined with hazardous effects of pollution, habitat loss, window strikes, and natural attrition and predation, added human predation will not benefit this species nor has it been adequately established that any crane species could viably sustain the pressure of added human predation.
5) The continuation of bird watching and observation festival and events, such as the Sandhill Crane Viewing Days, is vital to both state economies. Passive wildlife watching, such as birding, generates far more tourism and tourism dollars than does hunting, and results in no deaths or injuries, unlike hunting.
As a more viable alternative, we instead endorse and support all states adopting a "passive wildlife tourism" tax/fee to generate revenue instead of relying on hunting fees for departmental revenue. Passive wildlife contact is more sustainable ecologically, and more lucrative economically.
6) Biological factors, namely the length of time required for Greater Sandhill Cranes to mature for reproduction, the relatively small number of offspring produced compared to other species of birds, the proclivity to mate for life which could delay an individual from breeding if a mate is lost/killed, collectively work against the cranes generally.
7) While the Greater Sandhill Cranes rest and over winter in Tennessee and Kentucky, they do not breed in those locations. The birds are dependent on rest and foraging opportunities in Tennessee and Kentucky to regain their strength for breeding seasons elsewhere.
Both Florida and Tennessee depend upon tourism in the form of wildlife watching. Loss of protection in the crane's natural range outside of Florida, in the birds' breeding range, may negatively impact Florida and Tennessee economically if the numbers of birds is reduced by introduced human predation, thereby reducing crane wildlife watching opportunities in Florida specifically.
These birds, which mate for life and symbolize the re-emergence of a species from the brink of near extinction at human hands only a century ago, should more fittingly be "shot" through the lens of a photographer's camera, not the barrel of a hunter's rifle.
For these and other reasons, we request both state agencies decline to allow the hunting of Sandhill Cranes.
What you can do today to help the Cranes:
1) Sign this petition.
2) Forward this petition to all interested persons with a request they also sign and forward it, Tweet and add to their Facebook page. Post this petition at websites where ever possible.