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The Midcontinental population of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) has a large geographic range, contains nearly 500,000 birds, and is hunted in much of its range. The population includes three subspecies; the numbers of two of these are uncertain, and they should be afforded protection from hunting that would be detrimental to their population. The two subspecies of concern tend to concentrate in the eastern part of the Great Plains during fall and spring and to winter along the Gulf Coast in Texas. This paper uses the limited information available about the Gulf Coast subpopulation in a model. We included in the model five input parameters: population size, annual survival rate in absence of hunting, the number of birds taken by hunters, the extent of additivity of hunting mortality, and recruitment rate, measured as the fraction of juveniles in the winter population. Using three widely ranging estimates of each parameter, we examined the general behavior of the simulated population. Realistic population projections occurred with medium (60,000) or large (166,000) population sizes, low (2000) or moderate (4000) harvests, and recruitment rates of 0.07 and 0.11. All values of survival in the absence of hunting and additivity of hunting yielded some realistic projections. Results of modelling suggest that the variables warranting closer monitoring are population size and recruitment rate.
Additional Publication Details
Modeling the population dynamics of Gulf Coast sandhill cranes