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Over 15,000 Sandhill Cranes spend the winter at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge on the Tennessee River in this file photo.


The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will take public comment until Aug. 10. The email address is

Comments may also be mailed to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Att: Waterfowl Regulations, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN, 37204.

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NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will again consider instituting a sandhill crane hunt.

State wildlife officials will take public comment and the commission will decide whether to allow crane hunting when it meets in August. This is the second time in three years that the agency has pondered such a proposal.

The commission considered a sandhill crane hunt in 2011, but deferred action on the proposal, according to the Tennessean newspaper.

Kentucky has a sandhill crane hunting season and is the only Southeastern state among 15 states nationwide that allow it.

The migratory birds have wingspans up to 6 feet. Tens of thousands of them descent on southeastern Tennessee each winter.

The issue has proven polarizing. The Tennessee Wildlife Federation leads organized hunting groups in pushing for a crane season. Birders don't like the idea and officials of the Tennessee Ornithological Society say the cranes are too valuable a resource to hunt.

Melinda Welton, chairwoman of the Ornithological Society's conservation policy committee, said the commission and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which it oversees, risk a major public outcry if a crane hunt is allowed.

"I think the agency is going to get quite a bit of grief," she said. "It is a golden opportunity for the agency to gain a lot of goodwill by proclaiming this the most watchable wildlife species in the state and celebrating that."

Wildlife federation CEO Mike Butler told the commission at a late June meeting a responsible quota and a two-month hunt could coexist with bird enthusiasts' desires.

Under the proposal, the Hiawasee Wildlife Refuge would be off limits to hunting. The refuge is home to the annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival.

When the commission delayed a decision in 2011, 72 percent of the public comments TWRA received opposed a sandhill crane hunt.