US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



The Journal of Wildlife Management 84(5):902–910; 2020;

DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21865


U.S. government work


Sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) inhabiting the midcontinent of North America have been hunted since the 1960s under management goals of maintaining abundance, retaining geographic distribution, and maximizing sustainable harvest. Some biologists have raised concerns regarding harvest sustainability because sandhill cranes have lower reproductive rates than other game birds. We summarized demographic information in an age‐structured matrix model to better understand population dynamics and harvest. Population indices and recovered harvest since the early 1980s suggest midcontinent sandhill cranes have experienced an average long‐term annual growth of 0.9%; meanwhile, harvest has increased 1.8% annually. Adult survival and recruitment rates estimated from field data required modest adjustments (1–3%) so that model‐derived growth rates matched growth estimated from a long‐term survey (0.887 adult survival and 0.199 females/breeding female). Considering 0.9% long‐term annual growth, sandhill cranes could be harvested at a rate of 6.6% if harvest was additive to natural mortality (assumed to be 0.05) or 11.3% if harvest mortality compensated for natural mortality. Life‐history characteristics for long‐lived organisms and demographic evidence suggested that hunter harvest was primarily additive. Differential harvest rates of segments of sandhill cranes in the midcontinent population derived from differential exposure to hunting suggested potentially unsustainable harvest for greater sandhill cranes (A. c. tabida) from 2 breeding segments. Overall, demographic evidence suggests that the harvest of sandhill cranes in the midcontinent population has been managed sustainably. Monitoring activities that reduce nuisance variation and estimate vital and harvest rates by subspecies would support continued management of sandhill cranes that are of interest to hunters and bird watchers. Published 2020. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.