Live Sandhill crane cam coming to Routt County

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Habits of the Greater Sandhill crane will be on full display as Yampa Valley’s first live crane cam gets set up later this year.

Paid for with $4,000 in grants from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition will install the camera this spring on a private farm in Hayden. It will live stream the nest on the group’s website and allow for anyone with internet access to watch the cranes changing places with their mate, rotating eggs and hatching their chicks. Staff also will edit and post highlights from the nest.

“It’s a really great way to learn about what cranes do on the nest,” said Erin Gelling, program director for the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. “One of the big reasons we wanted to be able to do this is to inform people about cranes and about animal behavior itself.”

Nancy Merrill, president and co-founder of the coalition, said bird cameras are incredibly popular. And while the group intend’s for the project to provide entertainment, Merrill said they also hope to use it as an educational opportunity.

“The hope is that it will help people be more attune to nature that’s happening right here in Routt County,” Merrill said. “It’s a way to educate and make people aware of not just cranes but all the wildlife in the Yampa Valley.”

In addition to the grants, Zirkel Wireless has donated a year’s worth of internet equipment to the project started.

“We’re all hoping this will make people more sensitive of the environment around us,” Merrill added. “We’re trying to maximize the possibility of success with this as much as we can.”

Cranes are among the oldest living bird species, and scientists want to ensure their survival, Merrill added, which is why the group will take extra caution to install the camera at an appropriate distance and not make too much noise around the nest. The camera will be attached to a pole near the nest with wires running back farther from the nest, Merrill said.

“Once the cranes do start nesting, we want to limit our exposure to them as much as possible,” Gelling said. “Otherwise, we might risk scaring them out of nesting in the area.”

The coalition will broadcast the camera from its Facebook page, where the public also is invited to ask questions about what they are seeing.

“On a biological level, unless you just sit down and stare at a crane all day, you won’t know what they do,” Gelling said. “This is a way for people to get in tune with nature and the natural world around them.”

The community foundation, which awards grants to local nonprofits with several different purposes, said it picked this particular cause because of the importance of learning about the wildlife surrounding Steamboat Springs.

“The community foundation thinks that our environment is an important piece of our community both economically and for the health and safety of our valley,” said Helen Beall, community impact manager at the foundation. “It’s going to be adorable.”

In addition to installing a crane camera, the coalition is now offering scholarships to high school seniors in Routt and Moffat counties. Students can apply by submitting an original piece of writing, visual art or performing art inspired by the Rocky Mountain population of Greater Sandhill cranes. Students can apply on the coalition’s website.

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