Michigan hunters take aim at sandhill cranes, mourning doves

Sandhill cranes are a rare and magnificent sight for many. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

LANSING, Mich. — If hunters have their way, a long-legged wetlands bird and an oft-spotted gray dove in southern Michigan could become the latest game species in the state.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs passed two measures at its annual convention earlier this month to seek sandhill crane and mourning dove hunting seasons in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Michigan DNR waterfowl specialist Barbara Avers says officials are discussing potential hunts with conservation organizations. She says the department doesn’t have a position on the hunts but would provide technical advice to the Natural Resources Commission if it considers the proposal.

The proposal comes nearly 11 years after Michigan voters rejected mourning dove hunting in a statewide referendum.

“Michigan voters could not have been more clear: They don’t want their songbirds hunted,” said Julie Baker, director of the Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition, based in Lansing.

MUCC spokesman Nick Green said it’s a matter of “proper management of the species,” with the department’s scientific knowledge on what levels of allowed harvest are appropriate to maintaining healthy populations of the birds.

It’s believed that sandhill cranes were eliminated from Michigan by the late 1800s, largely because of excessive hunting. But the bird returned over the decades.

“We’ve noticed almost an exponential population increase,” Avers said.

Michigan is one of only eight states with no hunt for mourning doves, and the only one in the Midwest. Voters rejected a mourning dove hunt, 69 percent to 31 percent, in 2006.

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