Sandhill crane hunt up for debate

Those in favor say cranes are causing damage to crop fields

BARABOO, Wis. - Hunters and conservationists weighed in at county Conservation Congress meetings across the state, voicing opinions on whether there should be a statewide hunting season for sandhill cranes, after a bill was proposed to that effect last year.

In Baraboo, Jon Hillmer said he agreed with the hunt.

"I think it would be possible," said Hillmer. "They should have a separate license and maybe a separate tag."

Hillmer said he remembers when populations of the crane were low, but now sees the larger populations doing damage to crops by pulling out corn plants in farmers' fields.

"They're doing damage in certain areas, and we would have controlled areas that we'd do more hunting that would benefit the farmers and agricultural areas," said Hillmer.

At Sauk County's meeting, the issue hits particularly close to home, as Baraboo is the home to the International Crane Foundation.

Crane researcher Ann Lacy said a hunt may not be necessary.

"A crop damage issue is not a good reason to hunt cranes because it won't solve the problem," said Lacy. "We have been working with a manufacturer to develop a crane deterrent; a chemical farmers can put on corn. That is a true solution to the crop damage problem."

Lacy said research has shown the cranes will eat other natural items in the area, not crops, if fields are treated, and don't tend to migrate to places where farmers don't use the solution.

The Conservation Congress vote is advisory and follows a bill proposed by Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, that went nowhere in the Legislature.

"If it comes up again, then they'll have something to go on," said Mike Rogers, vice chairman of the Sauk County Conservation Congress. "If we can get five or six or maybe even seven thousand people to vote on it tonight, they'll have an idea of what people in the state think about hunting cranes."

Hillmer said he'd give it a try, and thinks others would, too.

Sandhill crane hunt up for debate video

"It's just an opportunity to experience something different," said Hillmer. "They do it in other states and that's something where you could actually learn, and it's a totally different experience they might enjoy."

The vote Monday by the Conservation Congress members is only advisory, meaning it isn't a proposed rule change. Results will likely be announced later this week.

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