US Fish & Wildlife Service


Date of this Version



Kruse, K.L., D.E. Sharp, and J.A. Dubovsky. 2010. Status and harvests of sandhill cranes: Mid- Continent, Rocky Mountain and Lower Colorado River Valley Populations. Administrative Report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver, Colorado. 11pp.


Compared to increases recorded in the 1970s, annual indices to abundance of the Mid-Continent Population (MCP) of sandhill cranes have been relatively stable since the early 1980s. The spring 2010 index for sandhill cranes in the Central Platte River Valley, Nebraska, uncorrected for visibility bias, was 451,024 birds. The photo-corrected, 3-year average for 2007-09 was 498,420, which is above the established population-objective range of 349,000-472,000 cranes. All Central Flyway States, except Nebraska, allowed crane hunting in portions of their States during 2009-10. An estimated 7,394 hunters participated in these seasons, which was 23% lower than the number that participated in the previous season. Hunters harvested 15,282 MCP cranes in the U.S. portion of the Central Flyway during the 2009-10 seasons, which was 34% lower than the estimated harvest for the previous year but 6% higher than the long-term average. The retrieved harvest of MCP cranes in hunt areas outside of the Central Flyway (Arizona, Pacific Flyway portion of New Mexico, Alaska, Canada, and Mexico combined) was 7,304 during 2009-10. The preliminary estimate for the North American MCP sport harvest, including crippling losses, was 25,731 birds, which was a 39% decrease from the previous year’s estimate. The longterm (1982-2008) trends for the MCP indicate that harvest has been increasing at a higher rate than population growth. The fall 2008 pre-migration survey for the Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) resulted in a count of 20,321 cranes. The 3- year average was 21,433 sandhill cranes, which is above the established population objective of 17,000-21,000 for the RMP. Hunting seasons during 2009-10 in portions of Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming resulted in a record-high harvest of 1,392 RMP cranes, a 49% increase from the harvest of 936 in 2008-09. The Lower Colorado River Valley Population (LCRVP) survey results indicate a slight decrease from 2,401 birds in 2008 to 2,264 birds in 2009. The 3-year average of 2,847 LCRVP cranes is based on counts from 2007, 2009 and 2010 (survey was not complete in 2008) and is above the population objective of 2,500.