Dear editor,

A welcome sign of spring each year is hearing the wild call of sandhill cranes returning to Wisconsin. Seventy years ago sandhills were almost gone from our state, down to about 20-some pairs. Concentrated conservation efforts brought them back slowly to sustainable numbers.

In September, the Wisconsin Senate voted to reintroduce an annual sandhill hunt. The House may take up the bill in January.

Sandhill cranes reproduce slowly – about one or two hatchlings survive every couple of years. Mating doesn’t occur until the birds are 4 or 5 years old. Balancing the effects of a hunt with the sandhill’s slow reproduction rate is risky business.

Controlling the impact of a crane hunt could be wishful thinking. A bird in the sky with roughly a 6- to 6 1/2-foot wing span and a loud call makes an easy target. Wisconsin is in the crane’s flyway and core breeding grounds. The near wipe-out of sandhills by the 1950s could happen again.

Whooping cranes and sandhill cranes are indistinguishable to hunters in poor light. Whooping cranes are recovering slowly in Wisconsin – through heroic breeding efforts they now number about 50. Whooping cranes could be even more seriously endangered by a sandhill hunt.

How to address the problem of corn crop damage by cranes? The International Crane Foundation (Baraboo) helped develop an effective safe chemical deterrent, avipel, that offers an effective way to reduce crop damage. Also needed – a policy that supports farmers by allowing payments for crop damage caused by wildlife species that do not have a hunting season.

The time is now to contact your state house representative to vote no to a sandhill crane hunt. Cranes grace our skies – a part of Wisconsin’s heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Kathy Kascewicz of Fifield

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.