Please continue to do your part and stay home but if you have to go out for essentials remember to keep a Whooping Crane of space between yourself and others!
$10,000 reward offered for information on shooting of endangered Whooping Crane in Jefferson Davis Parish
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division is seeking information on the shooting death of an endangered Whooping Crane in Jefferson Davis Parish in November 2019. Agents said the dead crane was found in a rice and crawfish field in the town of Elton, off Elton Drive in Jefferson Davis Parish on November 15, 2019. However, a necropsy determined that it had been killed by gunshot a day or two before being found. Known to biologists as L11-18, the 1.5-year-old male Whooping Crane had been released as part of the December 2018 cohort.
Up to $10,000 is being offered by various groups for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal shooting of this whooping crane. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation is offering up to a $2,500 reward. LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program and the Whooping Crane Conservation Association are each offering a reward of up to $1,000. LDWF also received a private $5,000 donation from Dave Weeshoff of La Crescenta, California, and a $500 donation for the reward from the International Crane Foundation.
Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving Whooping Cranes is advised to call the LDWF’s Enforcement Division at 1-800-442-2511 or use the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions.
After the disappointing November 2019 ruling of “probation” for the poacher responsible for the 2018 shooting death of adult male Louisiana Whooper, L8-11 – the first Whooping Crane with his partner, L7-11, in the new Louisiana non-migratory flock to nest and lay eggs – my thoughts turned to public awareness of these endangered birds. Poachers are seldom charged under the Endangered Species Act, because prosecutors have to prove that the poacher knew that the killed animal was endangered. Even before the 1918 passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and biologists and others sounded the alarm that Whooping Cranes were headed toward extinction, Whooping Cranes had been in the public eye – whether as a target or as something to be protected. To all the Whooper “educators” out there – the scientists, conservation groups and concerned individuals who have worked through the decades, and continue to work in loose tandem with one another, toward the common goal of bringing an awareness of Whooping Cranes to others – thank you.
The Whooping Crane once ranged over most of North America, from the Arctic
coast south to central Mexico, and from Utah east to New Jersey, South Carolina, and Florida. Within historic times, the breeding range extended northwest from central Illinois, through Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, to the general vicinity of Edmonton, Alberta. Estimates from the mid-1800s put the total Whooping Crane population at 1,200 to 1,500, but by the 1890s breeding populations of the cranes had disappeared from the heart of their historic breeding range in the north-central United States. By the early 1900s, Whooping Crane numbers had plummeted.
What caused this rapid decline? The cranes’ known wetland breeding grounds were altered and disturbed as settlers plowed the native prairies and drained marshes for farming. Whooping Cranes also were hunted, and their eggs collected, leading to increased pressure on an already small population.
In 1918 the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made it illegal to hunt Whooping Cranes. Despite this and other early protection efforts the Whooping Crane population continued to decline. By the late 1930s, only two small flocks remained: a few nonmigratory birds around the tallgrass prairies near White Lake in southwestern Louisiana and one migratory flock that wintered in southeastern Texas and summered in western Canada.
In 1940 a hurricane “drove the birds in to the rice fields and most of them were shot by hunters or killed by the storm,” and the number of Whooping Cranes in the wild dropped to just 21 birds by the mid-40s. In 1950 the last individual in the Louisiana population, “Mac,” was removed from the wild leaving a total of only 34 surviving Whooping Cranes in the migratory flock.
Because of the critically low number of Whooping Cranes, biologists proposed a program of captive breeding. Beginning in 1967, eggs were transferred from the breeding grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center near Laurel, Maryland. The captive Whooping Cranes at Patuxent first produced eggs in 1975, and gradually the captive flock at Patuxent grew. This was the beginning of a long, complicated process involving the efforts of many individuals, conservation organizations and government agencies to protect the endangered Whooping Cranes. (The Patuxent captive breeding program ended in 2018.)In 1986, the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan was created by the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, a group of crane biologists and officials from the United States and Canada.
The results have been mixed. In 1975 biologists began an ambitious, first-time reintroduction attempt to establish a migratory Whooping Crane population in the Rocky Mountain states, placing Whooping Crane eggs in nests of would-be surrogate Sandhill Cranes at the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. This approach was discontinued when it was shown that the Whooping Cranes imprinted on the Sandhills and would not mate with Whooping Cranes. In 1993 biologists began a project to reintroduce a nonmigratory population of Whooping Cranes to Florida, but discontinued the program due to losses from predation, disease and reproductive failure. In 2001 the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) initiated a project to restore a migratory population in eastern North America using ultralight-led migration. A variation of the WCEP project continues but is plagued by ongoing reproductive failure and poaching. In 2011 a reintroduction project began to establish a nonmigratory population of the species in Louisiana. Despite poaching losses, the Louisiana reintroduction project is gaining traction as cohort members are starting to breed, nest and successfully fledge young. The goal of all the experimental populations is to achieve a self-sustaining population to help safeguard the Aransas-Wood Buffalo wild population.
Time is running out for those opposed to the proposed changes to the Kentucky Sandhill Crane season. Unfortunately, due to lack of public comment in March 2018 when the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources District Commissioners met, some of the Commissioners thought there was no opposition to the changes in the season regulation, and subsequently voted to send it on to the Legislative Research Committee for approval.
After seven years of the “new” Kentucky Sandhill season that saw consistently low hunter participation and seasonal “harvests” of less than 200 cranes, regulation increases are now in the works. The amended hunt regulations promise extension of the season from 30 days to 56 days, and the harvest limit of 400 cranes will become the maximum allowed by USFWS – almost three times that number of cranes. While a zone-closure of the eastern portion of Green River Lake to allow an additional roosting area for the cranes is commendable, the reasoning behind it is solely for hunter opportunity. Cranes will continue to be vulnerable to hunting as they come and go from this “protected” roosting area, making the new “wildlife viewing opportunity” promised by this closure non-existent.
The following gives details for making your comments, and/or attending the scheduled public hearing. Act now!
301 KAR 2:228. Sandhill crane hunting requirements.
PUBLIC HEARING AND PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD: A public hearing on this administrative regulation shall be held on May 24, 2018 at 10 a.m. at the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in the Commission Room of the Arnold L. Mitchell Building, #1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort, Kentucky. Individuals interested in attending this hearing shall notify this agency in writing by five business days prior to the hearing of their intent to attend. If no notification of intent to attend the hearing is received by that date, the hearing may be canceled. This hearing is open to the public. Any person who attends will be given an opportunity to comment on the proposed administrative regulation. A transcript of the public hearing will not be made unless a written request for a transcript is made. If you do not wish to attend the public hearing, you may submit written comments on the proposed administrative regulation through May 31, 2018. Send written notification of intent to attend the public hearing or written comments on the proposed administrative regulation to:
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
Arnold L. Mitchell Building, #1 Sportsman’s Lane
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
phone (502) 564-3400
fax (502) 564-0506
To read the proposed amendment to the Kentucky Sandhill Crane season, go here:
For the May 1, 2018 Legislative Research Committee’s Administrative Register of Kentucky and the Sandhill Crane hunting requirements, go here:
301 KAR 2:228. Sandhill crane hunting requirements.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS AND TIERING STATEMENT
(1) Provide a brief summary of:
- (a) What this administrative regulation does: This administrative regulation establishes sandhill crane seasons, bag limits and requirements on public lands within federal migratory bird hunting frameworks established in 50 C.F.R. Parts 20 and 21 according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
- (b) The necessity of this administrative regulation: The necessity of this administrative regulation is to establish the 2018-2019 sandhill crane hunting requirements on private and public lands in accordance with the USFWS and Department management objectives.
- (c) How this administrative regulation conforms to the content of the authorizing statutes: KRS 150.025(1) authorizes the department to promulgate administrative regulations to establish open seasons for the taking of wildlife and to regulate bag limits. KRS 150.360 authorizes the department to restrict methods for the taking of wildlife. KRS 150.600 authorizes the department to regulate the taking of waterfowl on public and private land. This administrative regulation establishes procedures for the taking of migratory game birds within reasonable limits and within the frameworks established by 50 C.F.R. Parts 20 and 21.
- (d) How this administrative regulation currently assists or will assist in the effective administration of the statutes: By establishing sandhill crane hunting seasons and area specific requirements, this administrative regulation maintains and manages migratory game bird conservation efforts consistent with national and international management goals.
(2) If this is an amendment to an existing administrative regulation, provide a brief summary of:
- (a) How the amendment will change this existing administrative regulation: This amendment will change the timing of the season and season length to coincide with duck seasons. It will change the number of permits available from a fixed 400 permits to the maximum allowed by the USFWS for that season. Tags with each permit will go from a fixed two (2) per permit to a system where one (1) tag is allocated to each permit holder and any remaining tags are allocated to permit holders in order of drawing. The application period for sandhill crane permits will be moved to September with the drawing held in early October. The eastern portion of Green River Lake will now have a no crane-hunting zone created. This amendment also removes a season closure if harvest were to reach 400 cranes.
- (b) The necessity of the amendment to this administrative regulation: This amendment is necessary to provide additional hunting opportunity for Kentucky’s sandhill crane hunters, to move the application period to September to conform to other quota hunt application periods, and to protect a roosting area on Green River Lake. At the completion of Kentucky’s Experimental Season Period, the USFWS granted Kentucky additional harvest opportunity. This amendment allows for additional hunting days (56 vs. 30) while simplifying regulations similar to duck seasons. For the 2017-2018 season, 30% of applicants were turned away for a lack of permits. The new application period also provides additional time for the delivery of permits and tags. The closure of crane hunting on Green River Lake protects a roosting area that will result in additional hunting and wildlife viewing opportunity.
- (c) How the amendment conforms to the content of the authorizing statutes: See 1(c) above.
- (d) How the amendment will assist in the effective administration of the statutes: See 1(d) above.
(3) List the type and number of individuals, businesses, organizations, or state and local governments affected by this administrative regulation: For the 2017-2018 season, there were a total of 565 applicants for the crane quota hunt.
(4) Provide an analysis of how the entities identified in question (3) will be impacted by either the implementation of this administrative regulation, if new, or by the change, if it is an amendment, including:
- (a) List the actions that each of the regulated entities identified in question (3) will have to take to comply with this administrative regulation or amendment: Applicants will now be required to apply during the month of September, and hunters will be prohibited to hunt in a protected area of Green River Lake.
- (b) In complying with this administrative regulation or amendment, how much will it cost each of the entities identified in question (3): There will be no additional costs in order to comply with this amendment.
- (c) As a result of compliance, what benefits will accrue to the entities identified in question (3): More hunters will be able to participate in the annual crane hunt, and it is possible for hunters to harvest an additional crane depending on the number of applicants and their draw ranking. The prohibited hunting area in Green River Lake will protect the crane population in a key roosting area, which is important to the long-term sustainability of the population.
(5) Provide an estimate of how much it will cost the administrative body to implement this administrative regulation:
- (a) Initially: This administrative regulation change will result in no initial change in administrative cost to the Department
- (b) On a continuing basis: There will be no additional cost on a continuing basis.
(6) What is the source of the funding to be used for the implementation and enforcement of this administrative regulation: The source of funding is the State Game and Fish Fund.
(7) Provide an assessment of whether an increase in fees or funding will be necessary to implement this administrative regulation, if new, or by the change if it is an amendment: It will not be necessary to increase any other fees or increase funding to implement this administrative regulation.
(8) State whether or not this administrative regulation established any fees or directly or indirectly increased any fees: No new fees will be established directly or indirectly.
With the approval by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) Commission (5 to 3 in favor of) on March 23, 2018, the amendment process will be the same as it was in 2011. KDFWR will file the amended regulation with the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) in April (deadline is mid-April). A public comment period will begin the May 1, 2018 when the LRC publishes the amended regulation. Everyone will then have until the end of May to provide written comments. There will also be instructions on a public hearing, if anyone would like to request one. The Department has to treat both written comments and the public hearing exactly the same. If public comments are received, then the Department would respond with a “Statement of Consideration” addressing questions or concerns raised by the public. The amended Regulation would then go to the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee for review by the legislature in either August or September.
Different than the last time around, Kentucky’s crane season is now an operational season and the frameworks for crane hunting are included in the federal rule which covers all migratory bird hunting. Those frameworks, which allow for expanded hunting in Kentucky, have been part of the federal rule for several years now. The 2018-2019 season was considered and approved by the USFWS Service Regulations Committee last October. At this point, one course of action where USFWS is concerned is for individuals opposing the season changes to comment on the 2019-2020 season next Fall/Winter.
To read the Federal Register Proposed Rules – (50 CFR Part 20; [Docket No. FWS–HQ–MB–2017–0028; FF09M21200–178–FXMB1231099BPP0]; RIN 1018–BB73 Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed Frameworks for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations
go here: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-02-02/pdf/2018-02112.pdf
Specifics for the Kentucky Sandhill season can be found in the PDF as follows:
“Proposed Regulations Frameworks for 2018-19 Hunting Seasons on Certain Migratory Game Birds (starting on page 8 of the pdf)
(Then on pages 13-14 of the pdf)
Regular Seasons in the Mississippi Flyway
Outside Dates: Between September 1 and February 28 in Minnesota, and between September 1 and January 31 in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Hunting Seasons: A season not to exceed 37 consecutive days may be selected in the designated portion of northwestern Minnesota (Northwest Goose Zone), and a season not to exceed 60 consecutive days in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Daily Bag Limit: 1 sandhill crane in Minnesota, 2 sandhill cranes in Kentucky, and 3 sandhill cranes in Tennessee. In Kentucky and Tennessee, the seasonal bag limit is 3 sandhill cranes.
Permits: Each person participating in the regular sandhill crane seasons must have a valid Federal or State sandhill crane hunting permit.
Other Provisions: The number of permits (where applicable), open areas, season dates, protection plans for other species, and other provisions of seasons must be consistent with the management plans and approved by the Mississippi Flyway Council. “
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) is now considering a proposal to expand the Sandhill Crane hunting season. The KDFWR Wildlife Committee has forwarded the suggested changes to the full Commission which will consider them during its meeting March 23, 2018.
To read more about the proposed changes in the February 19, 2018 Courier-Journal article by James Bruggers, go here:
KDFWR 2018 District Commissioner Members:
C.F. “Frank” Williams
270/821-6392, Ext. 205
(Second District Counties: Allen, Butler, Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, Hopkins, Logan, McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson, Todd, Union, Warren, Webster)
Kenny L. Knott
(Fourth District Counties: Adair, Barren, Cumberland, Edmonson, Grayson, Green, Hardin, Hart, Larue, Marion, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Taylor, Washington)
Jimmy B. Bevins
(Sixth District Counties: Anderson, Boyle, Casey, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Jessamine, Lee, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Powell, Rockcastle, Scott, Woodford)