Apparently scarecrows are not enough to keep Utah’s growing population of American crows from partaking of the state’s famous fruit and other crops.
By a vote of 3-2, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a proposal Thursday to establish the first crow hunt, despite concerns raised by people who packed its meeting and opposed creating a hunt “just for the sake of killing.”
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) offered several reasons for the proposal, including that it will create a new hunting opportunity, will help deal with increasing agricultural depredation by crows and the fact that 45 other states are already doing it.
None of those reasons sat well with the more than 30 people who showed up to voice their objections.
“I’m not anti-hunting. I understand it is one of the many tools used to manage wildlife, but this does not appear to be data driven or scientifically based,” Margaret Wynne told the board before the vote. “It is based on anecdotal information.”
Wildlife board member Mike King, who later voted against member John Bair’s motion to pass the DWR’s proposal, echoed Wynne’s thoughts.
“What level of complaint is there and where is it coming from?” he asked Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for DWR. “Obviously this can be a problem, but I’m interested in the level of complaints about what precipitated this. I hope it is not some legislator saying there are too many, just like there are too many turkeys, so let’s have a hunt.”
Owners of fruit orchards near Perry and Brigham City have complained about crows eating fruit, and others have said the birds eat corn and grain, Stringham said.
Critics of the hunt cited a lack of firm data about the number of crows in Utah, and specifically along the Wasatch Front, and other reasons why the hunt was a poor idea.
Crows, although protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, can be hunted in states under some basic rules. Ravens, which are often mistaken for crows even by professional birders and rehabilitators, cannot be hunted in the United States.
The majority of crows in Utah can be found in urban neighborhoods where hunting is not allowed, limiting hunting to the eastern shores of the Great Salt Lake, where depredation is not happening, they said.
Proponents of the crow season — which would run Sept. 1-30 and again from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, 2015, with a daily possession limit of 10 — say hunters will eat what they kill. But board member Bill Fenimore, an avid birder and hunter, doubted that would happen.
“Hunters are proud to say they eat what they harvest. I want that to be true going forward,” Fenimore said. “We might make a change to that culture if we take on crows with no intention of harvesting them to eat them and that might prove as a disconnect for young hunters.”
Fenimore also voted no on the proposal.