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Opponents trying again to kill Utah’s first crow hunt

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Courtesy Scott Root | Utah Division of Wildlife Resources American crows, like these spotted in Provo, will be hunted in Utah starting in September under a Thursday decision by the Utah Wildlife Board.

By brett prettyman

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 25 2014 10:28AM
Updated Aug 2, 2014 09:54AM

Utah’s first crow season is set to start in September — but opponents are still hoping to kill the hunt instead.

The Utah Wildlife Board approved the proposal at a meeting in June, allowing hunters to kill 10 crows each day of two periods: Sept. 1 to 30 and Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, 2015.

But critics are taking advantage of a rarely used rule to trigger another hearing. The one-hour session is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the Department of Natural Resources building, 1594 W. North Temple, in Salt Lake City.

Wayne Whaley, who studies crows and is a professor of zoology at Utah Valley University, will argue the hunt is unnecessary.

"Where’s the data?" Whaley asks. "They are just playing follow the leaders and electing to do a crow hunt because other states do it. Some states may have problems, but there are very few crows in Utah. They are just becoming established."

Once a rule amendment — such as the change allowing the new hunt — is filed with the Division of Administrative Rules, groups can ask for a second review, explained Staci Coons, the wildlife board’s coordinator.

"If 10 interested people or an organized group representing at least 10 people requests the review that division is required to set up an additional period to take public comment," Coons said.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) will not make a presentation. After hearing public comments, the board can go into a closed session to discuss the issues or have an open forum.

"They could do nothing and allow the rule to become effective," Coons said. "Or they could delay the action for further review."

The seven-member board could also amend the rule and make changes to the proposal.

DWR biologists have said they proposed the hunt to create a new opportunity for Utah hunters and to help control a growing crow population that is causing damage to fruit orchards in northern Utah.

But when pressed for details of the claims of fruit depredation, state and federal wildlife officials said at the June meeting that they had not documented the complaints.

Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR, said it is his job to determine only one aspect of the proposed hunt.

"We look at everything on the biological side and let the board deal with the social side of the hunt," Stringham said. "From our perspective we don’t see any problem. We are not putting the crow population in any danger."

American crows and ravens look similar and both can be found across the state. Both members of the corvid family are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and regulations allow crow hunts but protect ravens. Stringham has said under the state plan, people caught shooting ravens would likely get a ticket.

Whaley, who said he has hunted deer and mourning doves, said he doubts any tickets will be issued and "guarantees" there will be ravens and other black birds killed if the hunt is upheld.

The public was invited to comment on the proposal during the agency’s Regional Advisory Council (RAC) tour, with sessions in five towns across the state. RAC members share the information they gather with the wildlife board as it prepares to vote. While most hunters and anglers in the state are familiar with the process, people not typically involved in hunting issues are not.

Whaley attended a RAC meeting in May, addressed the board in June and plans to raise his concerns again Tuesday.

Board member Bill Fenimore voted against the hunt at the June meeting, where the count was 3-2 with one member absent. His opinion has not changed.

"Nobody will eat crows. I don’t like the message we are sending to hunters, particularly young hunters, that it is now OK to shoot a crow and leave it lay," said Fenimore, who has reviewed 86 letters about the crow hunt and said not one was in favor of the proposal. "It is just the wrong message."

brettp@sltrib.com

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman

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