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.
Laura Waterman Wittstock is president and CEO of Wittstock & Associates. The firm provides consultation in new projects, creative, development, assessment/evaluation, and governance. Read more about Laura Waterman Wittstock
We take looking up at the skies for granted. The stars and moon will always be there. Only the headlines of a transit of Venus or the infamous blue moon calls our attention to the reality that the firmament is not fixed and we are a tiny population in a galaxy far away. Most people agree that we should educate ourselves all of our lives. There is no room for closed thinking, especially not for the coming generations. It will comfort many Minnesotans to know that the MN Planetarium Society just passed an important 100,000 mark. That many school children have now had lessons about the cosmos, given by Planetarium teacher Sally Brummel. We have a few small planetariums like the ones in Duluth, Hibbing, or New Ulm, but only one serves the entire state: the Minnesota Planetarium and Space Discovery Center. For many reasons, support from the City of Minneapolis and then Hennepin County has lagged. Now, a new partnership with the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota gives some hope that a new planetarium will be available to the people of the state. Minnesotans should show their support by picking up the phone, sending an email, or writing a letter to the members of the Legacy Division in the House or the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate.
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