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Population and harvest dynamics of midcontinent sandhill cranes

March 31, 2020

Sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) inhabiting the midcontinent of North America have been hunted since the 1960s under management goals of maintaining abundance, retaining geographic distribution, and maximizing sustainable harvest. Some biologists have raised concerns regarding harvest sustainability because sandhill cranes have lower reproductive rates than other game birds. We summarized demographic information in an age-structured matrix model to better understand population dynamics and harvest. Population indices and recovered harvest since the early 1980s suggest midcontinent sandhill cranes have experienced an average long-term annual growth of 0.9%; meanwhile, harvest has increased 1.8% annually. We found that adult survival and recruitment rates estimated from field data required modest adjustments (1-3%) so that model-derived growth rates matched growth estimated from a long-term survey (0.887 adult survival and 0.199 females per breeding female). Considering 0.9% long-term annual growth, sandhill cranes could be harvested at a rate of 6.6% if harvest was additive to natural mortality (assumed to be 0.05) or 11.3% if harvest and natural mortality was compensatory. Life-history characteristics for long-lived organisms and demographic evidence suggested that hunter harvest was primarily additive. Differential harvest rates of segments of midcontinent sandhill cranes derived from differential exposure to hunting suggested potentially unsustainable harvest for greater sandhill cranes (A. c. tabida) from 2 breeding segments. Overall, demographic evidence suggests that the harvest of midcontinent sandhill cranes has been managed sustainably. Monitoring activities that reduce nuisance variation and estimate vital and harvest rates by subspecies would support continued management of sandhill cranes that are of great interest to hunters and bird watchers.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Population and harvest dynamics of midcontinent sandhill cranes
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21865
Authors Aaron T. Pearse, Glen A. Sargeant, Gary Krapu, David A. Brandt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70209324
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center