Alabama to allow sandhill crane hunting

Alabama is making preparations for its first sandhill crane hunting season in more than a century. Registration opens Wednesday. The state will issue 400 permits for the 2019-20 season.

Registration for Alabama’s first sandhill crane hunting season in more than 100 years will open Wednesday and run until Sept. 25.

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries will conduct a computer-controlled random draw of 400 sandhill crane hunting permits on Oct. 2. To register, visit www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/sandhill-crane-hunting-alabama during the dates listed above.

Registration is limited to Alabama residents 16 or older or Alabama lifetime hunting license holders. Applicants must have their regular hunting license and a state waterfowl stamp to apply.

If drawn, hunters must complete an online test that includes species identification and regulations. After passing the test, WFF will issue the permit and tags.

In addition to a hunting license and state duck stamp, hunters must also acquire a federal duck stamp and Harvest Information Program license, and if hunting on a Wildlife Management Area, a WMA license.

The season will be split into two segments, with the first running from Dec. 3, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020. The second segment will be Jan. 16-31, 2020.

The daily, season and possession limit will be three birds per permit. Hunters can harvest all three birds in one day if they choose. The number of permits was derived from the number of sandhill cranes counted by WFF over a five-year average.

The guidelines under the federal hunt plan allow a state to harvest 10 percent of that five-year average. Alabama’s five-year average is 15,029 birds.

For the initial sandhill crane season, the first of a three-year experimental season, WFF set its harvest allowance below 10 percent to ensure hunting will not be detrimental to the population.

The sandhill crane hunt zone is restricted to north Alabama. Additionally, both state and federal wildlife refuges are closed to sandhill crane and waterfowl hunting.

In the early 2000s, sandhill crane seasons in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways were under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By 2010, USFWS approved a sandhill crane management plan that included a hunt plan for the Mississippi Flyway, which includes Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

Kentucky opened its season in 2011. Tennessee’s season was opened in 2013. Thirteen states west of the Mississippi River have sandhill crane hunting seasons.

Sandhill cranes stand 4 to 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 4 to 6 feet. The subspecies found in the eastern United States is called the giant sandhill crane.

Sandhills prefer wetland habitat with emergent vegetation and often feed in harvested grain fields.

The majority of migratory sandhill cranes in Alabama are found in the Tennessee River Valley, with some birds wintering in Weiss Reservoir on the Coosa River.

For more information about Alabama’s sandhill crane hunting season, visit www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/sandhill-crane-hunting-alabama.

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