Zootah At Willow Park and the Audubon Society of Cache Valley, are teaming up to educate the public about sand hill cranes. Troy Cooper, the zoo director, said populations of the migratory bird were on the decline for many years, but with conservation efforts, their numbers are growing.
Cooper said educating the public on the basics can help improve crane populations - things like defining the characteristics of the sand hill cranes, their diets, the habitats they live in, their migratory patterns, and why they are attracted to Cache Valley.
“Cache Valley is actually in a migratory path for sand hill cranes,” Cooper said. “In the spring and in the fall we get a very large influx of migratory birds, but we also have a very healthy population of resident birds. Driving to the zoo this morning, I was driving by a field and I saw pair out there with their chick that was several weeks old so we know they are nesting here. They’re enjoying a time of growth and increase which we’re always happy to see.”
Their biggest challenge is urban sprawl. Cooper said houses spreading out and taking up ground is where we’re seeing a potential threat, however, he said not all human activity is harmful to the cranes.
“Farmers are really not a big problem with them,” Cooper said. “They’re coming into the fields after they have hayed, they’re looking for the invertebrates, the worms the beetles and those types of things and that’s what they are eating.”
Cooper said the public can help the sand hill crane populations by being aware of where the birds are at, especially while on hikes around river banks and marshy areas. He said to not approach them and just enjoy them from a distance. The public can also avoid littering so the cranes don’t ingest something harmful.