Alabama: Sandhill Crane Season Returns to Alabama

Contact: Bee Frederick, Southeastern States Director

Beginning later this year, Alabama residents will now have an opportunity to pursue sandhill cranes. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) recently announced the new season for the migratory birds through a permit draw system. It is the first time since 1916 that there will be a season in the state. Alabama now joins Kentucky, Tennessee and thirteen other states west of the Mississippi River that offer hunting opportunities for sandhill cranes.

Specific details of the hunt are:

  • Registration is limited to Alabama residents (16 years old or older) only. A regular hunting license and state waterfowl stamp are required to apply.
  • The first segment of the season will run from December 3, 2019, to January 5, 2020. The second segment of the season will be January 16-31, 2020.
  • The daily, season and possession limit will be three birds per permit. Hunters can harvest all three birds in one day if they choose.
  • The system will be a limited draw with 400 permits that will be issued through a computer-controlled random draw.
  • Once those drawn complete the process and are approved, each permittee will be issued three tags for a maximum total harvest of 1,200 birds.
  • The registration process will open in September and be open for several weeks with the drawing occurring in October.
  • Those drawn must complete an online test that includes species identification and regulations.

The return of hunting opportunities for sandhill cranes in Alabama is another conservation success story and highlights the success of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (Model). The Model holds that sound science guides wildlife management decisions and regulations, which are funded through the “user-pays, public-benefits” American System of Conservation Funding.

Regarding the ultimate decision to open a season and recent population trends, the Migratory Game Bird Coordinator for the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Seth Maddox discussed the process of opening a new season.  “We started counting sandhills in 2010 in conjunction with our aerial waterfowl surveys,” Maddox said. “We conduct the aerial surveys each fall and winter. Since 2010, we’ve seen a 16% increase on average per year in the state. Additionally, we had to go through the Flyway [The Mississippi Flyway Council] process, just like any other state that wants to add a new season on migratory birds. We gathered all of our data and put together a proposal for a hunt plan. It took a couple of years to get through that process,” said Maddox. “For the experimental season, we elected to keep the harvest below 10 percent because we wanted to take it slow and ensure hunting will not be detrimental to the population.”

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