Tennessee Considers Sandhill Crane Season (Birdwatchers Cringe)

Sandhill cranes are big, beautiful, abundant, delicious and widely hunted - just not in the southeastern states. But now the state of Tennessee wants to change that. Predictably, it's upsetting some people.

From this story [Tennessean.com](http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100902/NEWS01/9020339/-1/NEWS01/TN+may+allow+hunting+of+once-imperiled+sandhill+cranes on ):
A once minuscule group of sandhill cranes that migrates through the Southeast has succeeded in rebounding to a healthy population, but it could spell trouble for the big bird in Tennessee. The state wildlife agency has a plan that, if approved, would allow hunting of the species as early as next year. The change would make Tennessee the only Southeastern state with a season on sandhill cranes. Birders are questioning the wisdom, however, of letting hunters shoot at the red-capped, grey-blue cranes, which are the focus of the state's largest wildlife viewing event.

_People flock from around the region to see them congregated in winter by the thousands and sometimes tens of thousands at the Hiwassee Refuge northeast of Chattanooga. "There is no reason to hunt that bird ˜ a 4-foot-tall bird like that," longtime birder Michael Bierly said. "They say it's going to be limited hunting, but limited for how long?" The leadership of the Tennessee Ornithological Society is more circumspect. "Our big concern is the precedent of taking a non-game species and making it a game species," said Dick Preston, group president. The nonprofit Tennessee Wildlife Federation, which asked for the change, doesn't see a problem. "There are several people who would like to be able to hunt them on a limited basis in the state," said Mike Butler, CEO of the conservation, hunting and fishing advocacy group. "Regulated hunting has never been responsible for the decline of a species in the United States. By definition, it's regulated."

Tennessee's situation with sandhill cranes is different from that of most states because of the numbers of the birds that gather in one place within its borders. The state estimates that 48,000 stopped to rest or stay over last winter in the refuge on Chickamauga Lake, where the Hiwassee River joins the Tennessee River._

Your thoughts? Do you think the numbers and relatively small number of crane hunters (compared to other waterfowlers) justify giving the sandhill crane gamebird status, or should it be left alone?