A Grand Haven-area man charged with killing three sandhill cranes is facing up to 90 days in jail and restitution of up to $500 per bird for an incident reported late last week.
Our partners at the Grand Haven Tribune report man was also given a warning because he fired a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun within 450 feet of at least six houses.
The gun was also confiscated by authorities.
“Obviously, it was very unsafe,” State Conservation Officer Ivan Perez said.
Perez said he responded to a call at Kitchel Lane in Grand Haven Township, not far from the Grand River, late Friday afternoon after receiving a tip on the state Department of Natural Resources’ Report All Poaching hotline. Perez said the landowner admitted to shooting the birds.
“The landowner claimed he thought he could treat them as varmints,” Perez said. “He didn’t know they were protected.”
Apparently, the landowner came home to a damaged lawn and thought it was done by his landscaper. Later in the afternoon, the man saw his neighbor chasing some sandhill cranes from his yard with a shovel, Perez said. The cranes went into the landowner’s yard, so he retrieved his gun and shot the large birds.
Perez recovered the dead birds.
“If you’ve got a problem with a protected or migratory bird, contact us,” Perez said.
Grand Haven-area residents can call the wildlife biologists at the Muskegon State Game Area at 231-788-5055. Anyone concerned with possible poaching can call the Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7808.
Perez said archery season for deer just started. There are some small game hunting seasons going on right now and a waterfowl season that starts on Saturday.
Hunter Pulling, Muskegon State Game Area wildlife assistant, confirmed that “there’s no sandhill crane season” in Michigan.
“Migratory waterfowl is federally protected,” he said.
Several western states do have hunting seasons for the prehistoric-looking birds, Pulling noted, but the only way you can kill a sandhill crane in Michigan is with an agricultural permit. Some people are trying to get a season in Michigan, but it hasn’t happened yet, he said.
The number of sandhill cranes has risen dramatically over the past 50 years. In 1944, there were just 27 breeding pairs in the Lower Peninsula, Pulling said. Since 1966, the population has increased by about 10 percent each year.
In 2012, the sandhill crane population in the eastern region of the United States was estimated at 87,796.
Despite the increase in the large birds, Pulling said his office has not received many complaints about the birds damaging property.