Crane hunt is contested

  • Sandhill crane

    Luther C. Goldman/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  Idaho approved a sandhill crane hunt last month to appease farmers who are losing barley and potatoes to the birds. The state plans to distribute 20 permits to shoot the lanky, long-necked cranes this September, but it is not yet clear who will do the killing.

State officials would like to use the permits to dispatch birds that eat and trample crops. "We really don't want to have a sport hunt," says Richard Meiers, chairman of the state Fish and Game Commission.

It will be a sport hunt or none at all, according to the Pacific Flyway Council, which oversees migratory bird hunts in the region. The council, composed of game managers from 11 Western states, will allow the killing only if the public carries it out.

Susan Weller of the Idaho Audubon Council is leading a fight to stop the hunt altogether. Weller says that there are other ways of compensating farmers or keeping cranes away from crops, such as planting "lure crops' to draw cranes away from farmlands.

But Doyle DeKay, who farms barley in southeast Idaho, says keeping cranes out of his fields is "a full-time job." He told the Idaho Post Register, "I've got to the point where I hate them. I don't like to be that way."

*Greg Hanscom

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