Utah ornithologist sounds an alarm about the crow hunt

 

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“The crow hunt would definitely hurt crow populations,” says Dr. Wayne Whaley, an ornithologist and Professor of Biology at Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah.

 

On June 5, 2014, the Utah Wildlife Board voted 3-2 to allow, for the first time ever, a crow hunt in Utah. The hunt is now scheduled to take place over four months — the whole of September and December of 2014, as well as all of January and February 2015.

 

A comment period is being held now, during the month of July, ending on July 31. To send in your comment, please see below, at the end.

 

A public hearing will be held on July 29 – see below for details.

 

The decision to hold the hunt can still be reversed, so public participation is as important as ever.

 

Dr. Whaley calls the hunt “unethical and unscientific” and says that the small population of resident crows in Utah may decline precipitously as a result.

 

 

“I heard a crow call.”

 

As an ornithologist, he’s been closely observing crows in Utah for decades, ever since the first few arrived in Utah. “Since 1975, they’ve slowly expanded along the west flanks of the Wasatch Range, along the foothills…In ’93 there were the first nestings of crows in Ogden, and the first crows nested in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park in 2006.

 

“In 2010, when I was in my back yard, I heard a crow call. This was in April, and I immediately started to search the neighborhood for a nest which I found a few days later. That was the first recorded nest in Utah County. There were two nests that year in 2010.”

 

He adds, “Crows build a new nest every year. They are newly arrived in this area — and now they want to kill them.”

 

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Confusion in the numbers

 

This view is in stark contrast with the position of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which has stated in several public meetings, that the crow population will not be harmed by the crow hunt.

 

Dr. Whaley explains that there is a confusion between resident crows who live in Utah and migratory crows who come into Utah for the winter.

 

The figures being used by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are those collected in the Christmas Bird Counts done every December. Migratory crows arrive in Utah in late October and November; they stay through the winter and normally leave in early March. So the population of crows that are being counted are largely the migratory ones. The resident population of Utah crows is much smaller, and Dr. Whaley says it will be a big mistake to hunt them.

 

He maintains that “the first crow hunt in September is going to hurt our new resident crows. They’ve only been here in Utah County since 2010…. the crows shot will be 100% resident crows, and the crow hunt will be dramatically affecting them.”

 

His view as a scientist is that when we see that a population is just beginning to grow that is “absolutely not the right time to start hunting it.” There is the risk that it may drop abruptly. “You must first know that the population is sustainable – and no one even knows what the population of crows in Utah is.” He calls the crow hunts planned for this fall and winter “unscientific,” and says they are based on no scientific data.

 

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No scientific studies have been done

 

According to Dr. Whaley, American crows are just barely beginning to establish a foothold in Utah. “We do not know how many resident crows we have in Utah. No studies on resident crows in Utah have been done.” He points out that “scientists should be using bona fide scientific data.” A crow hunt should have a scientific basis.

 

Commenting on the limit set of ten crows a day for hunters, Dr. Whaley asks “There is a limit of ten crows. How does anyone know that’s going to be sustainable? Where does the number ten come from?”

 

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 Crows belong here

 

Like all other native American birds, the American Crow belongs in this country. “Crows have been part of the eco-system since before Europeans first arrived on this continent.” They are found throughout the United States, and now, over time, they are moving into Utah.

 

Dr. Whaley says that crows have recently moved into Utah because mankind has created new crow habitat in urban communities where tree nesting substrates have become available. Studies have shown that crows provide net benefit to agriculture via the large numbers of insects they consume, many of which are harmful to crops.

 

Yes, they do cause some crop depredation, as do most birds, but they do far more good than harm. They consume vast numbers of insects. They are an essential part of the eco-system that should not be tampered with. It is already legal for farmers to kill birds that destroy their crops, so a state-wide crow hunt will not be any further help to farmers and, instead, risks causing great harm to a valuable species that is an integral part of the natural world.

 

Dr. Whaley loves crows – and butterflies too. During this interview, he was attending a conference in Park City, and the sounds of conversations in the background seemed to be much about butterflies, which he has studied extensively — as well as having studied crows for decades. He clearly loves nature and speaks very eloquently about preserving natural species.

 

 

Public hearing

 

A special public hearing on the crow hunt has also been called and will be held on Tuesday, July 29, in Salt Lake City at the DNR Salt Lake office auditorium, 1594 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, from 10am – 12noon. Please attend if you can.

 

 

How to comment on the crow hunt

The comment period is for Utah residents only, and is from July 1 through July 31. Please indicate, along with your signature, that you are a Utah resident.

Please send a polite comment, in your own words, to

Staci Coons,

UDWR Wildlife Coordinator.

by phone at 801-538-4718,

by FAX at 801-538-4709,

or by e-mail at stacicoons@utah.gov.

 

Many thanks for helping the crows!

Coalition for American Wildbirds

 

Top photo: © Alexander Erdbeer / Dreamstime.com

Second photo: © Chicho7671 / Dreamstime.com

Third photo: © Gsrethees / Dreamstime.com

Fourth photo: © Szabolcs Stieber / Dreamstime.com

 

© 2014, Coalition for American Wildbirds.  Permission is given to crosspost or reproduce this. Credit given and a link to this website will be appreciated.

 

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