A Bird In The Hand
My selection of a university (back in the dark ages) was predicated on a desire to work in wildlife management. Murray State University had one of the best programs in the country and it was somewhat affordable and close to home, so I went there. Fortunately for me, MSU also had a first-class journalism and broadcasting curriculum, so that’s where I landed when it became obvious that I was woefully ill-prepared for a career in natural science.
I still have a strong affinity for wildlife management and it’s one of the things that brought me back to agriculture after a career in government and commercial media.
Each year, thousands of sandhill cranes make their way across my farm, using the nearby Kentucky River and adjacent wetlands (and croplands) as a migratory stopover. So that the annual pageant continues to play out with sufficient – but not overabundant – numbers of healthy birds, I favor controlled harvest.
You see, the point of management is to keep flocks and herds in balance so you don’t hear about any starving or overcrowding. Dramatic population spikes and crashes are the way these things work out when left to themselves. A little mitigation can smooth out the peaks and valleys and help assure that stable, healthy flocks flourish. I love seeing and hearing those guys flying over. I don’t want to lose that, but I don’t want the birds as a whole to suffer. I’m also pretty pragmatic about things being useful, so the idea of harvesting them for food makes a lot of sense to me. A strictly regulated hunt and a current quota of 400 birds are outlined by the Kentucky law.
Once again, appropriate, scientific management techniques crash headlong into emotion. I hope at some point both survive with a greater appreciation of each other’s importance.