Kentucky fish and wildlife officials say they are not disappointed that Kentucky hunters killed only 50 sandhill cranes — far less than the 400-bird limit they had set — during a controversial 30-day hunting season that ended Sunday.
Actually, they should feel not only disappointed but ashamed. This was an ill-advised and unjustifiable effort to pander to hunters who want to kill something different and to sell permits by allowing a hunting season on a species that was nearly wiped out in the 18th and 19th centuries. While state officials babbled about “rib-eye in the sky” with “excellent taste,” their decision enraged opponents and drew negative publicity for Kentucky in other Eastern states, none of which allow cranes to be hunted.
Kudos to the many hunters who decided not to seek a permit. Kudos to the conservationists who waged a vigorous protest that educated the public. Kudos to critics of crane hunting who bought some of the limited number of hunting permits so that they could not be used.
Meanwhile, Stuart Ray, a state fish and wildlife commissioner whose district includes Jefferson County, expressed pleasure that the state could “offer the sportsmen the opportunity to hunt sandhill cranes” and be the first state in the East to do so.
Really? What is “sporting” about killing a majestic but defenseless bird who stands as tall as 5 feet? Tiger-hunting is a bad idea because it threatens an endangered species, but at least there is drama about whether the tiger will become a rug or the hunter will be dinner. And Kentucky didn’t come off as a pioneer; it just seemed backward.
Overall, the sandhill crane is on a bit of a roll. In addition to escaping the planned Kentucky carnage, it received a reprieve Wednesday when President Obama rejected a proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route that would have threatened a critically important wetlands habitat for the cranes in Nebraska.
People have most of the advantages and all of the guns. It’s nice that occasionally wildlife can pull out a victory against all odds.
This article was written and published by Courier-Journal.com