Gray Wolf and Sandhill Cranes are Next
Published October 26, 2004. By
Johnathan Malavolti. Southbend Tribune.
LANSING -- After legalizing mourning dove hunting, Michigan officials are taking a look at the possibility of adding two more animals -- the gray wolf and the sandhill crane to the states' game list.
While both animals' population continues to increase, there's a lack of overwhelming evidence or support to hunt them, so no legislation has been introduced yet to do so.
The gray wolf, or timber wolf, is in the process of becoming removed from federal protection as an endangered species in Michigan, said Raymond Rutem, the Department of Natural Resources natural heritage unit supervisor.
"At some point we'll have to do some population management on the gray wolf," Rutem said.
He said there are several options to control wolf numbers, including adding them to the game list so they can be legally hunted -- which would need to be approved by the Legislature. Yet Rutem hasn't seen any formal proposal for hunting the wolf or the sandhill crane, which is hunted in 13 other states. The gray wolf can be hunted only in Alaska.
The growing numbers of the animals have led to an increase in problems, said Rutem. The DNR estimated only 20 wolves inhabited the state in 1992, a number that's risen to about 350 this year.
"There have been more and more human-wolf encounters, some with dogs, and there have been negative feelings about this," he said.
Although the wolf encounters have been mainly isolated in the Upper Peninsula, cranes are creating a statewide problem, said Rutem.
The Michigan Farm Bureau Policy on Wildlife Management reads: "The (sandhill crane) species is very destructive to small corn and wheat seedlings, requiring replanting in many cases. We request this problem be researched by the DNR with a possible hunting season as means of control."
The Farm Bureau's Rob Anderson acknowledged the hurdle of adding a crane hunting season through the Legislature, but said members of the organization would like to see it done.
"The Farm Bureau would certainly support crane hunting legislation," Anderson said.
A recent two-year survey funded by the state Nongame Wildlife Fund confirmed 805 breeding pairs statewide, according to the DNR. Most cranes in the Lower Peninsula were found in a six-county area near Jackson and Ann Arbor. Highest concentrations in the Upper Peninsula occurred in the eastern counties.
Mike Boyce would certainly not like to see a crane-hunting season. He's the resident manager of the Michigan Audubon Society's Baker Sanctuary in Calhoun County, where more than 4,000 people took part in CraneFest X and viewed about 2,000 sandhill cranes between Oct. 9 and 10.
"These birds were on the brink of extinction back in the 1930s in Michigan," Boyce said. "But they made a terrific comeback -- they're really an environmental success story. And I don't think the reason we saved cranes was so that someone else could shoot and kill them.
"I don't see a need to add any additional species to the game list," he added. "There's plenty of things for hunters to shoot."
After the emotions and politics displayed in the approval of the mourning dove to the state game list, it's doubtful another species may follow in the birds' path anytime soon, said Rep. Susan Tabor, R-Delta Township.
"The dove issue was brainless," Tabor said. "But even with the facts such as it was hunted in 39 states (when originally proposed) and now 41 with Michigan, sound science doesn't really work when politicians and emotions get involved."
Tabor, the chair of the House Conservation Committee which approved the dove-hunting bill, said she won't become involved in any more game list proposals, but has some advice for legislators who would: "If anyone wanted to add cranes or wolves, I would wish them good luck, because they'd need it."
- Songbird Protection Coalition