To read part one first, click here.
The depredation issue
Wildlife Board member, Mike King, again requested, as he had at the July 5 meeting, that there be two votes to consider separately the two issues of crop depredation and the crow hunt. This time the two rules were voted on separately. Adding crows to the list of species that can be killed by farmers if their crops are being damaged was accepted unanimously by the Wildlife Board. On the crow hunt vote, Mike King and Bill Fenimore, were the two who voted against the crow hunt.
Two incidents of crop depredation in Utah had been originally cited by the Wildlife Board and by DWR. One of the speakers, who had researched the topic, was able to uncover a total of seven incidents of crop depredation in the state of Utah – which still seems an inadequate number to justify a statewide crow hunt. Jason Robinson went over several examples of crows involved in Utah crop depredation – including one example of crows standing on a bag of seeds, poking holes in it so they could eat the seeds. It wasn’t immediately clear why the bag of seeds couldn’t have been covered or placed inside out of reach of the crows – or why lethal means needed to be used to repress this natural behavior of birds.
No farmers or other agricultural producers or anyone whose crops had suffered damage by crows showed up to attend the public hearing.
Wildlife Services representative Mile Linnell stated that he and his colleagues spent much of their time explaining to the public, and offering help with, non-lethal methods of deterring crop depredation – such as netting placed over fruit trees.
The use of hunting as a mechanism for addressing crop depredation by crows has been repeatedly mentioned by the DWR. How hunting crows in the fall and winter would prevent the depredation of crops which are grown in the spring and summer, was not explained. How hunting crows in the large regions of Utah where there are no crows would help with depredation was also not explained. Nor was any scientific data offered to substantiate the repeated claim that the crow population needs to be brought under control. The Christmas bird counts, which were given as a reference, show a decline in the crow population over the last several years.
What was abundantly clear from the July 29 Public Hearing is that, in the words of long-time animal advocate Kirk Robinson, of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, who has been showing up for RAC meetings and Wildlife Board meetings for twenty-five years to fight against excesses of hunting, “There has been a sea change.” For many years, Kirk Robinson was often a lone voice speaking up on behalf of wildlife, especially predators, who are hunted. Now he is joined by a chorus of voices.
At first glance, it may seem hard to find any cause for optimism in the passing of the rule allowing a crow hunt in Utah. Indeed, it is a sad day for crows and the other birds, like ravens, who will be mistakenly killed during a crow hunt.
Still, it is undeniable that a change is taking place. These two Wildlife Board meetings were by far the most well-attended in memory, and the voices that spoke up were overwhelmingly opposed to the crow hunt. It is abundantly clear that many, many Utahns care deeply about wildlife and do not support casual hunting for fun.
Between the June 5 Wildlife Board meeting and the July 29 Public Hearing, the voices and attendance of opponents to the crow hunt did not diminish, but only grew in strength. It is clear that the voices of those working on behalf of Utah wildlife are gathering momentum and have become a force that will not go away.
From all corners of Utah, people are looking towards change and towards a time when there is a growing respect and love for wildlife, and an emphasis on valuing wild birds and animals as an integral part of the natural world.
Photos: Utah wilderness
Text and photos: © Coalition for American Wildbirds. Permission is given to cross post or reproduce this. Credit given and a link to this website will be appreciated.