Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kentucky's first-ever sandhill crane hunt shouldn't harm Ohio-bred birds

Kentucky’s successful call for an open season on sandhill cranes this year isn’t causing much of a worry ripple in the brow of Ohio wildlife biologists.

However, should Tennessee ever decide to let hunters swing on the migratory cranes, well, that could be a different story.

With a population of only around 100 sandhill cranes that either nest or else hatch in the state, Ohio hardly is in a position to declare a season of its own on the crane species.

“I’m not worried, to tell you the truth,” said Dave Sherman, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Sherman is in charge of the agency’s sandhill crane management team.

“If the cranes migrate the same way they did last year it won’t matter. The four birds that we fitted with radio telemetry all had migrated through Kentucky by December 14, and Kentucky won’t start their season until December 15,” Sherman said.

While that is seemingly a tight window, Sherman said it isn’t really since Ohio-bred cranes typically do little more than a fly-by over Kentucky.

“My real concern would be if Tennessee had a season. Had Tennessee opened a season this year our birds would have been migrating through that state at the time of the (proposed) hunt,” Sherman said. “And we had one bird that over-wintered there on a refuge.”

Sherman did say as well that Ohio has at least two more years of data collection before Tennessee again considers an open season.

And any such season must not only meet state requirements it also must pass muster from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the sandhill crane is considered a migratory species.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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