Former President Jimmy Carter and world-renowned animal researcher Dr. Jane Goodall publicly announced their opposition to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s proposal to allow sandhill crane hunting in Tennessee.
The proposal, set for a vote by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission on Aug. 22-23 in Knoxville, allows for the issuance of permits to kill more than 2,300 sandhill cranes, although experts warn the endangered whooping crane is sure to be in the line of fire.
Juvenile whooping cranes have a strong resemblance to sandhills, increasing the risk of reversing the recovery of the highly endangered whooping crane. In a letter, President Carter described why the proposal should be rejected.
“I am an avid hunter of quail, dove, turkey, geese, ducks, and other game fowl, but have for years been a strong vocal and financial supporter of the effort to protect whooping cranes and to reestablish the flock that flies over our farm in southwestern Georgia – and also over parts of Tennessee,” wrote Carter. “I understand your commission is contemplating opening hunting for sandhill cranes in Tennessee and it is obvious this will make it highly likely that whooping cranes might also be killed.”
Tennessee marks the mid-point in the migration of whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida, making the state one of only a handful of places in the world where tourists, nature enthusiasts and avid birders can enjoy this spectacular and rare species.
A recent study revealed 62 percent of Tennesseans oppose the hunting of cranes. Organizations including the Tennessee Ornithological Society, National Audubon Society, and Sierra Club, in addition to Carter and Goodall, are opposed to sandhill crane hunting.
“For many, cranes are symbols of peace, a message they carry around the world,” said Dr. Goodall. “The idea that these birds could be hunted for sport is distressing to me, and would be to many others.”
Both species of cranes primarily congregate in a small area around the TWRA Hiwassee Refuge – at the junction of Meigs, Rhea, and Hamilton counties – which was recently recognized as the best place in eastern North America to see and photograph cranes. The spectacle of migrating and wintering sandhill and whooping cranes attracts thousands of wildlife viewers to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge every year, in addition to the thousands who attend a two-day Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival each January.