Kleefisch: Cranes are the 'ribeye of the sky'
A local legislator, prompted by concerns from farmers and sportsmen, is hoping to establish a hunting season for sandhill cranes.
State Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc proposed the bill that would require the Department of Natural Resources to create a season for the birds, making Wisconsin the 14th state to do so. The DNR would be allowed to limit the number, under the proposal.
At issue are farmers who point to the damage done to crops from the birds.
Indeed, according to information from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Wildlife Services, in 2009, there were 82 complaints of damage done to crops from sandhill cranes, costing farmers a total of $571,636.
In 2009, farmers in Wisconsin treated 41,300 acres at a cost of $5 per acre with chemicals intended to give the crops a bad taste to the sandhill.
Federal wildlife officials issued 55 permits to landowners in southern Wisconsin to kill problem cranes last year, up from 16 in 2008, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Proponents of the proposed legislation fear that hunters may mistake the sandhill for whoopers, but Kleefisch refutes that concern.
"The bill requires a course to be taken to discern the difference between other cranes and waterfowl. Very clearly, someone who is going to hunt will be educated to know what the sandhill crane looks like, sounds like and lands like," he explained.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates the sandhill is now the most abundant crane species in the world with a population of around 600,000. "The sandhill cranes that fly into Wisconsin are the same that fly through Kentucky and there is already a hunting season in Kentucky. There is no shortage of sandhill cranes, not to mention that many hunters in Wisconsin travel to other states to hunt them. Let's keep Wisconsin sportsmen here and the dollars to the economy here," he added.
Kentucky became the most recent state to join with a limited hunt. The state issued 342 permits and hunters killed just 50 birds.
"Many call (sandhill cranes) the ribeye of the sky," Kleefisch said
Wisconsin, though proud of its hunting traditions, is also home to the Baraboo-based International Crane Foundation, which prefers to remain neutral on the issue, so its data and statistics are seen as objective.
"It is something that is brought up every time I am at a waterfowl banquet," he said, including Ducks Unlimited and Wings Over Wisconsin. "People ask why we don't have a sandhill crane season. The hunting heritage in Wisconsin is a constitutionally guaranteed right," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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