Feds approve sandhill crane hunt in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky has gotten approval from the
federal government to allow the hunting of sandhill cranes.
That means the state can go forward with its plan to hold the
first authorized hunt of the birds in about 100 years.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Services officials told
The Courier-Journal that the approval this week from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency means officials could open the hunt
as early as Dec. 17 (http://bit.ly/qbSoWD).
Sandhill cranes haven't been hunted in Kentucky and most of the
Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard since the early 1900s. Their
numbers had dwindled because of overhunting, but they have
rebounded since then thanks to conservation efforts.
State officials say the regulations still need to go through a
General Assembly review process, but that could be done in the
Thousands of the big birds - which stand 5 feet tall and have a
6-foot wingspan - gather each winter in the Barren River Lake
Wildlife Management Area.
Hunters have argued for the right to harvest the birds, while
others have questioned projections for the cranes' population
trends and expressed worries that endangered whooping cranes could
be shot by mistake.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Alicia King said
federal authorities added some safeguards in an effort to prevent
the latter. Hunters will be required to pass an online bird
identification course, and the state must hold its sandhill crane
season before most whooping cranes arrive, King said.
The hunt would run for 30 days and allow no more than 400 of the
birds to be killed.
Opponents, however, say they will continue to fight the move.
More than a dozen conservation groups, including the Coalition
for Sandhill Cranes, have asked Gov. Steve Beshear to stop the
hunt. So far, he has declined.
Kentucky Resources Council Director Tom FitzGerald said the
groups are considering their options, including the possibility of
a lawsuit.
"It's certainly not the end of the road," he said.
Information from: The Courier-Journal,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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