The main conflicts between Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) and farmers in western United States occur in the Rocky Mountain region during migration and wintering periods. Most crop damage by cranes occurs in mature wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare), young shoots of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and cereal grains, chilies (Capsicum annuum), and silage corn (Zea mays). Damage is related to proximity of crop fields to roost sites and timing of crane concentrations relative to crop maturity or vulnerability. The evolution of conflicts between farmers and cranes and current solutions are described for two areas of the Rocky Mountains used by staging, migrating, or wintering cranes: Grays Lake, Idaho, and the Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico. In both areas, conflicts with growing crane populations were aggravated by losses of wetlands and cropland, proximity of crops to roosts and other wetland areas, changing crop types and practices, and increasing urbanization. At Grays Lake, fall-staging cranes damaged barley fields near an important breeding refuge as well as fields 15-50 km away. In the Middle Rio Grande Valley, migrating and wintering cranes damaged young alfalfa fields, chilies, and silage corn. Solutions in both areas have been addressed through cooperative efforts among federal and state agencies, that manage wetlands and croplands to increase food availability and carrying capacity on public lands, provide hazing programs for private landowners, and strategically target crane hunting to problem areas. Sustaining the success of these programs will be challenging. Areas important to Sandhill Cranes in the western United Sates experience continued loss of habitat and food resources due to urbanization, changes in agricultural crops and practices, and water-use conflicts, which threaten the abilities of both public and private landowners to manage wetlands and croplands for cranes. Conservation of habitats and water resources are important to support crane populations and minimize future conflicts with agriculture.
Additional Publication Details
Conflicts between sandhill cranes and farmers in the western United States: evolving issues and solutions