The Utah Farm Bureau Federation Monday announced its support of a special sandhill crane hunt scheduled in Rich and Cache counties Sept. 3-5 and 10-12.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced the hunt several weeks ago, but after several individuals and groups, including the Salt Lake chapter of the National Audubon Society, objected to the hunt - on grounds that the hunt is unnecessary and whooping cranes may be accidently shot - the division scheduled a special public meeting on Aug. 11 to reconsider the hunt.The meeting will be at 10 a.m. at the Juab County Courthouse in Nephi.
In addition to support from the UFB, the National Audubon Society headquarters and the Utah Wildlife Federation have endorsed the hunt. DWR waterfowl management specialist Tom Aldrich said Monday he will travel to Ogden Tuesday night to discuss the hunt with members of that area's chapter of the National Audubon Society to find out how they feel about it.
The hunt was scheduled, Aldrich explained, for at least two reasons: "The cranes are causing a great deal of damage to farm crops in Cache and Rich counties, and the population of sandhill cranes is too high and needs to be managed."
He said 100 permits will be issued, 50 in each county, if the hunt is finally approved at the Thursday morning meeting in Nephi. "More than 200 applied for the permits, which cost a hunting license holder a special $2 fee. We expect to harvest about 30 sandhill cranes during the two weekends.
"All hunters will be required to check in at special stations before and after the hunt, and we will close any areas in either county where whooping cranes are believed to be."
UFB natural resources specialist Tom Bingham said Monday his organization is urging the governor and state wildlife officials to implement the hunt which, he said, is a good plan to limit crop damage caused by sandhill cranes.
"The birds are causing thousands of dollars damage to crops in northern Utah."
He said federal wildlife authorities have determined that approximately 1,300 sandhill cranes should be harvested in 1988 in the Pacific flyway to properly manage the birds.
"We are not after significant reductions in sandhill crane numbers," Bingham said. "The UFB believes the hunting activity will serve to drive other birds away from unharvested grain fields where they do so much damage. Farmers have been using noisemakers and other devices to try to scare the birds away, but nothing has worked.
"When Wyoming starts their annual hunt for sandhill cranes, it drives the birds to northern Utah's grain fields. Some northern Utah farmers estimate losses from cranes destroying grain fields at more than $4,000 a year."
Aldrich said the cranes stand three and a half to four feet tall, have a six-foot wingspread and weigh 10 to 12 pounds. "They are excellent eating birds and good sport, since they have good eyes and are alert and difficult to kill."