SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Wildlife enthusiasts in Utah failed on Tuesday in their bid to block a crow hunt planned in the state for this fall, but said they had seen no evidence that killing the birds was necessary.
Utah approved plans last month to hold its first ever crow hunt in September, as authorities try to contain the noise and mess from a population of the big, black birds that officials say has tripled over the last 12 years.
On Tuesday a state wildlife board voted 3-2 to allow the hunt to go ahead, dismissing the complaints of activists.
"We'd like to see some sort of scientific study, rather than anecdotal evidence to prove this hunt is necessary and/or beneficial," said one of the campaigners, Carl Ingwell, co-founder of Utah Birders, which leads birdwatching field trips.
Crow hunting will be allowed during September and again between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28 each year. Sport hunters will be allowed to kill up to 10 birds a day, and farmers and ranchers will be able to kills birds that cause crop damage.
The rules require that sport hunters eat the birds they kill, but many environmental activists were skeptical.
"No one believes that most hunters will eat the crows ... most will not," said one woman, Sharon St. Joan of Kanab.
"They will be left in the fields with other dead and dying birds. This is the worst kind of wanton waste of wildlife and it's against the principles of ethical hunting."
Opponents have also expressed concerns over whether hunters will be able to identify the coal-black birds from other dark-winged fowl, particularly ravens, which are a protected species.
Utah's wildlife agency has said the crow population has grown 300 percent since 2002, although data from at least one national birding group suggests crows are on the decline in Utah.
(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis)