Certainly these majestic birds, with their dignified grey-and-red plumage, exceptional height, and bright red or yellow dinosaur-like eyes, belong in the Mesozoic era (sandhill crane fossils found in Nebraska are up to ten million years old.) They have a widespread range extending from Canada to Florida, and migratory flocks can be seen everywhere from New Mexico to Tennessee. However, despite their seemingly common status and well-being as a species, they, and their endangered relatives the Whooping Cranes, are still put at risk by the unwise actions of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Recently, the TFWC voted, against an overwhelming majority of their constituents, to legalize a sandhill crane hunting season from late November 2013 to early January of 2014. Four hundred permits will be dispensed by a lottery system to hunters who will then be allowed to kill three sandhills each, after passing an online "waterfowl identification test" so that the commission can be satisfactorily certain that the hunters will not accidentally shoot a whooping crane.
Even besides the fact that being able to identify photographs of birds on a computer screen is very different from the actual ability to recognize wild species, the commission seems to have avoided the most important issue - saving the sandhills themselves. Three out of the six subspecies of the cranes are listed as endangered and reliant on captive breeding programs to ensure their survival. That these cranes will be raised, released and subsequently shot is at best unlawful and wasteful, at worst an immoral act of animal cruelty.