For the Birds Radio Program: New Crow Hunting Season
(Recording of an American Crow)
Well, Minnesota’s state senate has done it now–they passed legislation–on a 60-2 vote–providing for a hundred and twenty day open season on crows. If passed by the state legislature, people will be allowed to go out and shoot crows four months out of every year.
Now I can understand the problems that some farmers have with crows–that’s why state and federal laws already provide a permit system to allow nuisance crows to be killed. But why on earth would reasonable men and women wish to encourage crow shooting as sport? Crows are an easy target as they fly over– their flight is slower and steadier than ducks, and their dark color makes them visible over a wide range of light conditions. They migrate each fall in large numbers over a narrow flyway, which would make it easy to pick off quite a few in a day. I suppose that’s a plus for shooters too incompetent to hit a duck, but those hunters who genuinely value the sporting elements of their hobby–those who actually manage to bag a grouse or a woodcock or each season–would surely not lower themselves to aiming at such an easy target.
Crows are not a valid game bird. They are not eaten, their pelts are not wearable, and except for Norman Bates of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” people don’t display dead crows on their mantels. Crows are intelligent–many scientists consider their intelligence to be second only to humans in the animal kingdom. They have a sense of number, are considered by some ornithologists to use tools, and have excellent memories. They can imitate a wide range of calls and sounds, and seem to delight in tricking people. Crows share with humans a wide range of other qualities, too–adaptability; loyalty to mate, offspring, and neighbors; curiosity; and acquisitiveness. Crows serve an important function in the Northland’s ecosystem. In coniferous forests and towns where Turkey Vultures are rare or uncommon, crows are the foremost scavenger, eating road kills and other dead animals before bacteria have an opportunity to multiply to dangerous levels. Besides that, crows have an elegant black beauty that discerning eyes appreciate. Look at one closely and you’ll see what I mean. Their all-black feathers are a study in simplicity and grace. Their flight is buoyant and graceful. Like many humans, baby crows have blue eyes which change to brown as the bird matures, and their voices also become deeper as they grow up.
So why do people want to hunt them? The Duluth News- Tribune’s fine editorial last week suggests that “we can only presume that this legislation is aimed at giving one segment of the population live targets.”
A recent study indicated that fully 20% of Minnesota hunters violate game laws. From my own observations of viewers from Hawk Ridge in the fall, I believe a large number of people don’t know dark-plumaged hawks from crows. Not only is this legislation unfair to crows, it also poses a hazard to many other species of birds. I suggest that if this legislation passes the House, the Minnesota D.N.R. should be required to maintain annual censuses of crow populations, to insure that the population can sustain a four-month hunt, and should require all crow hunters to take an education course and then prove that they are able to distinguish crows from all other species in flight at a distance. If the D.N.R. is unwilling to expend the resources to do this, then they should not allow crow hunting. Period.
(Recording of a Crow)
This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”