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Alaska Cranes

3682 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Dave Brandt
Well went out scouting and there seems to be quite a few cranes around. Ofcourse I am not in their major breeding grounds but I am in one of the staging areas. Saw a few with double bands. One plastic and a leg iron. Couple years ago saw one with a neck collar. Bioman if you read this, have you gotten any banded one's. Not sure exactly where our birds end up from here. How is Sac for waterfowling? I was there about 3 years ago. Went to Old Sac and hit the 815 L Street club (I think that is what it is called). Leo
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I have never seen a leg band or neck collar on any crane in the Central Flyway, as these are a different subspecies (greater sandhill Grus canadensis tabida). The subspecies that nests in Alaska is the lesser sandhill crane (Grus canadensis canadensis). They winter in California, primarily centered around the Cosumnes River south of Sacramento.

As far as waterfowling goes, I believe it is awful unless you have a significant amount of money to lease land. That is to be expected though, the State has lost over 90% of its wetlands. Any wetlands or ricefields that have any hunting value can run up to a $1,000,000 a year (that is not a typo). This is truly a rich man's sport in this state. On the contrary, the public hunting opportunities have been some of the worst experiences I have ever had in my life, bar none. If I didn't go back to North Dakota every year, I would hang up this recreational pursuit. It is that bad. I spent $1,500 for a lease two years ago and I ended up shooting one duck. Worst mistake I ever have made.

Needless to say, I am not high on hunting ducks in this State and anyone who says that waterfowling is good in this state is full of B.S. Maybe 30 years ago, but not now. I know of one person who spends $12,000 a year (along with 11 other guys) to lease a 160 acre ricefield located between two refuges. His group has had this lease for two decades an he says the hunting is nothing like it used to be. The rice farmers can not legally burn their fields anymore, so the State now has an additional 200 square miles of ricefields that are under water as the farmer's have switched (unsuccessfully) to flooding/decay methods. You always hear about guys shooting over a 100 ducks a year, but I have not met a single one in my five years as a resident.
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You are not totally correct. I study sandhill cranes and have been marking birds from the Central Flyway with transmitters attached to legbands for the last five years, also, 20 years ago another researcher marked them as well. Given the fact that cranes can live 30 plus years in the wild, there are a small number of the estimated 600,000 Midcontinent (Central Flyway) sandhill cranes wearing markers.

The cranes that migrate through the Central Flyway are a mixture of greaters which breed in NW Minnesota, throughout southern Canada and interior AK and also lessers which breed throughout northern Canada, coastal Alaska and Siberia. You are correct that there are lessers which breed in AK and migrate down the Pacific Flyway, but they breed largely in areas south of the the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. If you are interested in viewing some recent research done on both of these populations visit: (Central Flyway)

or ... /crane.cfm (Pacific Flyway)
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