A hunting season on sandhill cranes would become part of the state's hunting and fishing law, in House and Senate bills expected to pass soon.
Last year, the DNR announced a season on sandhill cranes in northwestern Minnesota, for the first time in more than 100 years. This year, the legislature is poised to add language listing sandhill cranes as game birds.
Two groups of sandhills migrate through Minnesota. DNR wildlife program manager Steve Merchant said the hunt will continue to be confined to the northwestern part of the state, where there are more birds than in the east.
"The hunt that we have, we're not concerned it's going to dramatically move that population," Merchant said. "And as long as that mid-continent population remains healthy, we're confident the Minnesota population will remain healthy as well."
Audubon Minnesota's Mark Martell said he's glad the season will continue to be restricted to northwestern Minnesota. He said the endangered whooping crane is being reintroduced in Wisconsin, and they're easy to confuse with sandhills.
"So there's the danger that those birds could actually be shot if there was a crane season in the eastern part of Minnesota," Martell said.
Last year, about 1,800 hunters bought permits for sandhill cranes.
The House environment committee will hear the bill on Tuesday.