Airdate: Apr 23, 2012
Scientist: Rick Schnaderbeck
Greater Sandhill Cranes: Crops
Colorado's Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge has helped keep migrating cranes away from the fields of local farmers.
Sandhill Cranes - Crops
Music; Ambiance: Sandhill Cranes
In ancient Rome, the cry of cranes during their spring migration was a signal to begin planting crops. In the midwestern United States however, farmers once regarded migrating cranes as an enemy, but with the help of wildlife refuge management, that point of view has changed. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
We're in Colorado's San Luis Valley, a favorite stopover for cranes on their way to their northern breeding grounds. Rick Schnaderbeck is assistant manager of the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.
"Well it's a little over fourteen thousand acres and it was established in 1953, mainly as a depredation refuge. A lot of the farmers around here at that time were having a lot of loses due to water fowl and cranes feeding on their fields. And consequently at that time the refuge was established to kind of try and control some of those loses. In another words to have the birds stay on the refuge and not go in and destroy a lot of the farmers crops. And now today the situation is almost reversed. Basically because most of the barley and wheat is harvested by the time the birds get here in the Fall."
The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge was entirely manmade, with the help of over 200 wells that provide a water supply. But having control over water has enabled the refuge's managers to tailor the ecosystem to the needs of specific wildlife. The population of Greater Sandhill cranes, for example, jumped from around 500 birds earlier in this century to a current level of around 20,000. But its not just cranes that have benefited.
"There's portions of the Monte Vista Refuge that have the highest density of water fowl nesting reported on the continent so it's a really unique place."
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.