For the Birds Radio Program: Crow Season Update

Original Air Date: July 15, 1988

Laura is most seriously displeased by the no-holds-barred open season on crows in Minnesota.

Duration: 4′02″


Crow Season

(Recording of an American Crow)

Decency and fair play in Minnesota took an enormous step backward last month. In the June 23 issue of the DNR News, the state Department of Natural Resources stated:

”…the crow season established by the 1988 Minnesota Legislature will start on July 1 and continue through November 1, 1988. Residents and non-residents will be allowed to take crows without limit with shotguns not larger than 10 gauge, bow and arrow, and .22 caliber rifles and handguns using rimfire short, long or long rifle ammunition. Crows may be taken without a small game license. Recorded or electronically amplified calls are permitted. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily during the four-month season. The state wildlife management areas and federal waterfowl production areas are open to crow hunting unless otherwise closed. State game refuges that were open to small game hunting last fall will also be open.”

So the legislature and the DNR have given their blessing to anyone to shoot limitlessly at one of the most intelligent birds on earth, a bird which is not eaten and doesn’t provide clothing or any other useful product. What a colossal step backwards for a supposedly civilized people.

As long as crows don’t eat poisons or rotten carrion, they are edible, but because of their varied diet, their meat doesn’t taste very good. Presumably that’s how the expression “eat crow” was born—it was humiliating to be able to feed a family nothing better than crow.

Crows have a handsome bearing and a noble glint in their eye, but it would take an unusual aesthetic sensibility for a person to want a dead crow decorating his parlor—the only case I know of was that of Norman Bates in the movie Psycho—who had stuffed it in practice for later, more maternal taxidermy projects.

It’s been my experience in teaching, presenting slide programs, and helping people identify birds at Hawk Ridge that few people, including some experienced birdwatchers, can tell a crow from a hawk, and even fewer can tell a crow from a raven. And, to make things even more serious, studies have shown that at least 20% of licensed Wisconsin and Minnesota hunters violate game laws—imagine dealing with unlicensed hunters packing Saturday night specials. Speaking for the Board of Directors of Duluth Audubon Society, I requested the DNR to at least restrict the season in the Duluth area, where crows migrate with ravens and dark hawks. But in spite of the unique nature of the Hawk Ridge flyway and the vulnerability of endangered hawks and eagles passing through, the DNR refused to consider our request.

None of this is to say that crows require absolute protection. Federal law has always permitted people to kill crows damaging or about to damage ornamental shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife. And even sport hunting of crows would be a lot more palatable to me if there was going to be any attempt to set bag limits, monitor crow populations, or license qualified hunters.

Minnesota has a reputation of being a state with an environmental conscience, and a state where fair play and decency still exist–not a place where unlicensed people shoot indiscriminately at living creatures 120 days of the year with handguns. This is one law that should be repealed quickly.

(Recording of a American Crow)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”