North American Crane Working Group


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Schmitt, C. Gregory, and Barry Hale. Sandhill crane hunts in the Rio Grande Valley and Southwest New Mexico. In: Urbanek RP, Stahlecker DW, eds. 1997. Proceedings of the Seventh North American Crane Workshop, 1996 Jan 10-13, Biloxi, Mississippi. Grand Island, NE: North American Crane Working Group. pp. 219-31.


Used by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


Annual limited permit hunting seasons for sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) were initiated in southwestern New Mexico (SWNM) in 1982 and in the middle Rio Grande Valley (MRGV) in 1986. Within the MRGV and SWNM are wintering areas for 3 migratory subspecies, including the lesser sandhill crane (G. c. canadensis) (lessers). Canadian sandhill crane (G. c. rowani) (Canadians), and greater sandhill crane (G. c. tabida) (greaters). We summarized annual season dates, bag limits, requirements for permits, procedures for examination of crane specimens at check stations, number of hunters, estimated harvest, mean harvest per hunter, subspecific composition, sex ratios, and percent juveniles in the harvest by hunt area. Mean values for hunt parameters in the MRGV were: annual harvest 458.8 ± 272.0 (1 SD), number of hunters 309.7 ± 121.8, harvest per hunter 1.4 ± 0.8, crippling loss 20.4% ± 7.0, and subspecific composition during 9 years was 27.1 % ± 23.1 lessers, 7.1 % ± 3.5 Canadians, and 65.7% ± 20.6 greaters with juveniles averaging 13.4% ± 8.8 of the harvest. Mean values for hunt parameters in SWNM were: annual harvest 100.2 ± 45.9, number of hunters 108.8 ± 45.7, harvest per hunter 0.9 ± 0.3, crippling loss 41.9% ± 14.9, and mean subspecific composition for 9 years was 66.6% ± 18.2 lessers, 13.0% ± 13.6 Canadians, and 20.3% ± 10.6 greaters with juveniles representing a mean of 14.2% ± 7.1 of the harvest. Our data indicated an increased vulnerability of juvenile lessers and greaters to hunting as compared to adults. An analysis of variance revealed that 13 of 15 comparisons of subspecies-sex combinations (6) and measurements of morphological variables (5) were significantly different (P < 0.(01). Only tail and wing chord measurements for male Canadians and female greaters did not differ significantly. Hunt procedures allowed us to successfully monitor annual crane harvest and adjust hunting seasons as necessary to remain within acceptable harvest rates of Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) cranes as established in Pacific and Central Flyway guidelines. Responsible management and monitoring of sandhill crane hunts can be accomplished by combining education programs and mandatory check stations where harvested cranes are examined.