August 26, 2019

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:

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.”

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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