News

The story of Bob Crane

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah — Ron Morrill has been the maintenance manager at River’s Edge Campground near Heber for five years.

He lives on-site and counted Bob Crane, the sandhill crane killed with a shotgun by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) last week, as one of his dear friends.

DWR felt the crane was a public safety concern after he had pecked at the personal truck of a DWR officer that lives at the campground. They felt there was a chance the bird had a disease, and they also felt he was acting aggressively.

Morrill said the crane hit the truck because of normal behavior. He said it was likely the crane saw his reflection in the vehicle, which they normally interpret as threats.

“There was one particular door at the rec center, where he would get his big, beautiful reflection, and when a crane sees their reflection, they don’t admire themselves, they see a threat, they see another crane, they’re going to protect their mate in their territory. That’s how cranes are,” Morrill said.

He described the rec center door incident as precisely similar to the crane’s behavior towards the DWR officer’s personal truck.

This territorial behavior from cranes is actually quite common.

He said the DWR officer was “emotionally upset” after the bird pecked his truck.

“I find it really hard to believe that a DWR officer isn’t familiar with how cranes really are,” he said.

Following the truck incident, several officials from DWR arrived at the scene and the crane was killed with a shotgun shortly thereafter, which follows DWR euthanization policy.

Due to the potential for a conflict of interest, the DWR officer whose vehicle was damaged was not involved in the decision to euthanize the bird, according to DWR public information officer Faith Jolley.

When the crane came to the campsite, Morrill said he never saw him act aggressively towards humans.

He said at the campground they make people aware of wildlife and have signs all over.

“We’re in his habitat, he wasn’t in ours,” Morrill said. He blamed the crane being in the area that day due to campground visitors feeding him, which they generally try to avoid.

He estimates that Bob was likely born at the campground, and assumed his age to be around 15-years-old.

Bob was a local celebrity, he guessed that the bird had his picture taken thousands of times this summer.

“We don’t like to euthanize animals,” said Jolley with DWR. “Everyone got into this job because they love wildlife.”

She said one of DWR’s biggest priorities is public safety. Even if the disease test results for the crane come back negative, they still felt the bird was acting too aggressively.

DWR said this week that they have not yet received the results of the necropsy.

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