Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to keep lobbying for future Sandhill Crane hunt

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OFAH optimistic hunt will take place

OTTAWA – The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) will continue to lobby for a Sandhill crane hunt being established in Ontario, as it notes that the population of the birds warrants it.

Mark Ryckman, Manager of Policy and Matt Demille, Manager of Fish and Wildlife Services with the OFAH met with Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and various other government ministers last week, “to discuss various environmental issues,” he told the Recorder.

“No, there is not a Sandhill crane hunt in place. Not yet,” Mr. Ryckman told the Recorder after the meeting. “This is relevant to the folks and groups in your area (Manitoulin) that have been pushing for a Sandhill crane hunt to take place in Ontario.” He explained, “we missed the recent federal deadline to create discussion on this issue process, so we wanted to meet with the new government and ministers on several issues.”

“The Sandhill crane hunt proposal is a Great Lakes issue,” said Mr. Ryckman. “There are various US jurisdictions coming on line to establish hunts, for the eastern population of Sandhill cranes that migrate through the North Shore-Manitoulin Island area and throughout Ontario.  Their populations are well above objectives and there is definitely a healthy enough population for a hunt to take place; and we will continue to try and convince the Canadian Wildlife Services on this.” 

“There are some obvious corridors where they migrate through, Manitoulin Island and the North Shore, and the Claybelt of Northeastern Ontario for example,” said Mr. Ryckman. “This is the same for the Northwestern Sandhill cranes as well, mid-continent, they have an even healthier population in areas such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and parts of the US.”

“I’m optimistic a Sandhill crane hunt will take place some day in Ontario, but it will not be in place quickly,” stated Mr. Ryckman.

As was reported earlier this month by the Recorder, members of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) were provided an update on the Sandhill crane issue and current research being conducted by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), which outlined that work is tentatively expected to be carried out on Manitoulin Island later this year, at their 2020 annual conference held recently.

Christopher Sharp, population management biologist with Canadian Wildlife Service Environment and Climate Change Canada told the Recorder after the meeting, “the soil and crop improvement association had provided funding and we are carrying out a large telemetry study using GPS transmitters. We’re collecting movement data (of Sandhill cranes) to quantify and examine habitat use relative to agriculture lands and the potential risks for conflicts between producers (and the cranes). We are also doing a large scale study of movement data to look at breeding, staging and how the timing of (cranes) migration leads to conflict between producers and the birds.” 

“The objectives of the study are to answer small and large scale movement questions relating to agricultural land use in areas with conflicts involving cranes,” Mr. Sharp told the Recorder. He explained, “this past fall we put transmitters on 24 Sandhill cranes, 10 on the Quebec side near Abitibi Lake and transmitters on 14 birds in the Temiskaming area. All the transmitters are working very well. We have one bird that is remaining in Ontario at Long Point in Lake Erie, with the remaining 23 all in the US from southern Michigan to Florida.”

“For 2020 we are tentatively planning to deploy transmitters along the Highway 17 corridor in Northern Ontario, including the area from Sudbury to Echo Bay and include Manitoulin Island; and the Quebec CWS may do something as well (during August-October),” Mr. Sharp told the Recorder. He pointed out, “several cranes from the Abitibi Lake and the Temiskaming area stopped on the North Shore or Manitoulin this past fall, although it was not a prolonged stay.”

Work will continue over three years, with a couple of years to gather the data, continued Mr. Sharp. “The goal of the study is to provide improved guidance (recommendations) to producers regarding on-farm mitigation. Everything indicates on farm mitigation might be the most effective way to deal with Sandhill cranes. A (Sandhill crane) hunting season would not be a practical tool to use.”

“The end goal of the project is to learn more about SACR in Ontario/Quebec and improve guidance to providers regarding on-farm mitigation,” said Mr. Sharp. “Recommendations will be made to producers, and we are working closely with the agriculture sector, and will be sharing the information we gather as it comes in, and help provide some insight on what can be done to mitigate conflicts.”
Mr. Sharp also commented on a new seed additive that is used in the US to discourage birds including Sandhill cranes from destroying crops. “The (OSCIA) is looking at how to get that here. It seems to be working well in some places where there has been crane damage, and in research carried out, they (Sandhill cranes) make up a good percentage of the damage on Manitoulin Island farmers’ crops.”