Sandhill cranes’ impact on farming; farmers hope for a legal hunt

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WATERLOO – Farmers have been lobbying for a solution to the growing problem of Sandhill crane depravations on their grain crops. The large migratory birds currently enjoy protected status in Ontario after their numbers were severely depleted. Known as the ‘ribeye of the sky,’ the creatures were a very popular game bird before their precipitous decline in the mid-20th century. 

Since Sandhill cranes became protected their numbers have rebounded significantly and Island farmers have joined the call for a renewed hunting season. A study seeking to establish the interactions between the cranes and agriculture is looking to obtain access to Island farm fields in order to gather data.

The Canadian Wildlife Service (part of Environment and Climate Change Canada) and the University of Waterloo will be conducting year two of its study on Sandhill cranes and how their movements relate to agricultural land uses. According to the study proponents, information from the study will be vital to understanding the nature of conflicts between Sandhill cranes and agricultural producers and how those conflicts can be mitigated.

This year, study crews will be working the fields between Sturgeon Falls and Sault Ste Marie, along the Highway 17 corridor, including a survey on Manitoulin Island. A rough schedule calls for the Azilda area to be studied between September 9-16; St. Joseph’s Island, Echo Bay and Bruce Mines between September 17-24; Manitoulin Island between September 25-October 2;  and West Nipissing between October 3-8.

Study researchers will be looking to access agricultural fields where cranes are actively feeding or at rest throughout the day. Crews will be capturing cranes using a rocket-propelled net, attaching transmitters to the birds, then releasing them.

Farmers interested in providing access to their fields for this important study can contact Manitoulin’s acting agricultural development officer, Julie Poirier Mensinga, at julie.poiriermensinga@ontario.ca. Registrants are asked to provide their name, physical address of their home farm and an approximate number of cranes using their fields.