IDAHO FALLS - As the opening day for the sandhill crane controlled hunt season approaches, hunters are reminded that in addition to sandhill cranes, Eastern Idaho is also host to endangered whooping cranes. While whooping crane population numbers are still low, these cranes have been known to hang out with their more numerous relatives the sandhill cranes. This week, IDFG employees spotted an adult whooping crane mixed in with a larger flock of sandhill cranes near Ashton, Idaho.
According to Ashton Hatchery Manager Mel Sadecki, "We saw a lone adult whooping crane working the fields with a whole flock of sandhills, just outside of Ashton near the area that will be open for a controlled hunt soon." According to Sadecki, "The whooping crane really stood out because of its white color." While coloration is a good way to determine the difference between adult whooping and sandhill cranes, juvenile birds are closer in color and require greater attention to identify by species. Both types of birds appear similar in flight, but whooping cranes have black wingtips, sandhills do not.
Sportsmen heading into the field are encouraged to learn the differences between the two types of crane before heading out to hunt. Whooping cranes are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and carry a stiff penalty for anyone who kills one, even accidentally. Over the past four years a number of controlled hunts have been established across Eastern Idaho to attempt to keep sandhill cranes dispersed and help reduce conflicts with agriculture. A limited amount of leftover controlled hunt permits for sandhill cranes go on sale at 10:00 A.M. on Wednesday, August 30, at all IDFG license vendors.
The attached page contains information to help distinguish between whooping and sandhill cranes. Anyone seeking further information can contact the regional IDFG office at 525-7290.