In Minnesota, March 1 is an important day in some quarters: it is the crow opener. What? There is a season for killing crows? Cookbooks, even those that specialize in game, don't seem to mention crow feasts. American Indian cookbooks don't mention crow. The illustrious top chef of them all, James Beard, who cooked everything, makes no mention of crow roasts, crow pudding, crow fricassee, or crow pie. So it appears that despite killing them, Americans do not eat crow. So what then, is the reason for crow slaughter?

Crows are fairly long-lived: 17 to 21 years (as observed in NY state). The nesting to fledgling reproductive activity takes about four months - yes, a third of the year. That means only one brood per year. Fifty percent of the chicks die and of those who fledge successfully only 50% are with their parents a year later, according to the NY study. If the first nesting completely fails, the parents do not try for another brood but go on to the next year.

Crows are omnivores and will eat a lot of small mammals, worms, insects, and anything that moves. They hate their enemy the owls, which is why hunters carry fake owls with them when they hunt crows. Real owls take the heads off crows, so there is a very good reason to hate them. But the really bad enemy, the people with guns, hide and shoot the unsuspecting crows in an unfair fight. Since they are an unsavory bird, why, it might be wondered, is there a season on crows at all?

The Migratory Bird Treaty (Weeks-McLean Migratory Bird Law), passed in 1913-14, ratified between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) in 1916, went into full effect as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918. Even though crows are migratory between Canada and the U.S., notably the plains and Canadian border states, the NY study observed that they will move when temperatures reach zero degrees, usually in January in Saskatchewan and Alberta. There are  also observed crow populations as far south as Oklahoma.

Crows were shot as "varmints" and thus were excluded from the migratory laws. They weren't considered food, they weren't considered migratory birds, and the pest label has stayed on the poor crow to this day. It's time to practice shooting at something else. Crows are part of the life of the Mississippi. They are part of the ecology that makes like beautiful in these parts. It always seems that we need laws to protect nature's creatures from human beings. Here is another one for the books.

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