Canadian Wildlife Services not considering open hunt season on Sandhill cranes

MANITOULIN—A Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) official says the CWS is not considering an open hunt season taking place on Manitoulin Island.

“I don’t recall the Ontario Federation of Agriculture lobby effort to have an open hunt season for Sandhill cranes on Manitoulin Island, but we have received a couple of letters/motions on this from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association,” said Jack Hughes, of the CWS, last week. “We’ve also responded to requests from agriculture and farm organizations,” he said, “however, at this point we are not considering having an open hunt season of Sandhill Cranes on Manitoulin Island.”

Mr. Hughes explained, “we’ve done some biology survey work on Manitoulin Island and other areas of Ontario where there are number of cranes and have carried out population counts. The total is around 8,000 in the late summer, including giving some latitude to the east, Bell Valley, Quebec, Timmins and Cochrane. The total number we have come up with is 8,000. If the birds were all fielding in one farmer’s field, they could do some severe damage, but overall this is not a large population of these migratory birds.”

“Having a hunt season would not be good for these (Sandhill cranes) because they are slower to reproduce compared to say geese and ducks,” said Mr. Hughes. “Because of that they would be susceptible to over harvesting. Geese, for instance, might raise five or six every year. With Sandhill cranes, females will generally produce one or two in a year with one surviving.” He also pointed out the cranes only start to breed at around two to seven years of age.

“However,” Mr. Hughes said, “we recognize issues some farmers face and we want to help, but an open season would not be a solution,” but added that, “we will provide permits to a farmer who has problems with Sandhills destroying their crops and we will issue a permit to control nuisance birds-which is free. These can be issued for a day or two. We issue about 40 of these permits per year and farmers often reapply.”

“No, we don’t require proof that there is a problem with the birds. We take the farmer’s word for it,” said Mr. Hughes. He further explained, “when a farmer gets a permit for nuisance Sandhill cranes they can indicate that a neighbour or licenced hunter is going to help out.”

“But we don’t feel the population of Sandhill cranes would sustain an open hunt season at this point in time,” said Mr. Hughes.

In the November 28, 2014 edition of the Recorder, it was reported the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) agreed with and voted in favour of a motion passed by the Manitoulin-Sudbury West OFA to lobby the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) to allow a managed hunt of Sandhill Cranes, as is provided in several other provinces in Canada.