Utah's first crow hunts approved again
Researchers say crows have the capacity to recognize people and scold humans they don't like.
Chances are those opposed to Utah's first crow hunt will remember John Bair's face.
With vociferous boos echoing in the room and calls for changes to the Utah Wildlife Board, its members narrowly voted Tuesday to uphold a decision they made in June to allow the first sport and depredation crow hunts in the state.
Bair made the successful motions in June and again Tuesday to allow the hunts. He said he believed the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) would not have proposed hunting crows without scientific data to support the idea.
"We have wildlife in Utah because we hunt wildlife in Utah," Bair told a large crowd. "Never in our state's history has there been an animal hunted to extinction while it was regulated under the Division of Wildlife. I have no reason to believe crow will be any different."
People attending the meeting chiefly opponents had an hour to share their concerns with the board Tuesday. Public comment had been previously welcomed at five wildlife Regional Advisory Council public information meetings, held across the state in May, and at the June board meeting.
After the board voted to approve DWR proposals for the sport and depredation hunts in June, several groups called for a review of the new rule, as allowed by the Utah Division of Administrative Rules. That led to Tuesday's meeting.
Board chair Jake Albrecht encouraged the public to bring new information to the discussion, but most of the comments had already been expressed to the governor-appointed board.
Among the concerns:
• A lack of scientific data illustrating the number of crows in Utah.
• Hunters may not be able to distinguish between crows and federally protected ravens.
• The ethics of allowing people to kill something they are expected, under the rule, to eat, but obviously will not consume.
• Little validation of claims of crop damage by fruit and corn farmers.
Most, but not all, commenters said they are not opposed to hunting.
"Some hunters assume we are against hunting; we are against unethical hunting," said Buz Marthaler with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. "The heritage and the history of family values around hunting is for food and clothing. It's not just killing to kill."
After the hour of comments, the board met in private to consider written comments. Back before the public, the board questioned officials with the DWR and the federal program director for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
The board elected on a 3-2 vote to separate the discussion of the sport hunt for crows from the depredation hunt, which allows farmers to shoot crows under certain conditions year-round. The board unanimously approved the depredation hunt.
Board member Michael King then proposed stopping the sport hunt, or delaying it for further review, and both motions failed on a 2-3 vote.
Board member John Bair then made a motion to again accept the DWR proposal for the sport hunt. It passed 3-2 with members Bair, Calvin Crandall and Steve Dalton voting yes.
The room erupted in boos, calls for changes to the Utah Wildlife Board and yells of "Where's the scientific data?" as wildlife law enforcement officials stood at attention.
The 2014-15 sport hunting season will run Sept. 1-30 and again from Dec. 1-Feb. 28, 2015. Licensed hunters will be allowed to take 10 crows a day and have 30 in possession.
One man, who identified himself a hunter, pointed out that one person could kill 1,200 crows if he or she went hunting every day of the season and took the limit.