Competitions call attention to cranes in the Yampa Valley |

Competitions call attention to cranes in the Yampa Valley

Sasha Nelson
The first pair of sand hill cranes to return to the Yampa Valley were photographed in a field off of Moffat County Road 30 outside Craig at 6:15 p.m. on March 7. The photo earned Craig's Deb Silva

— Two annual photography competitions in the Yampa Valley are designed to call attention to one of the largest birds in the area — Greater Sandhill Cranes.

“The contests raise awareness about the cranes in the Yampa Valley. Secondly they provide beautiful photos that we can use to publicize the festival and finally they give our talented local photographers recognition,” said Nancy Merrill, president of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition the organization that presents of the Yampa Valley Crane Festival.

The crane coalition formed in May 2012 in response to community discussions about hunting cranes in Northwest Colorado.

Since then the all-volunteer group has worked to ensure protection of the Rocky Mountain crane population through awareness raising initiatives such as the festival and photo competitions.

The first of two photo competitions is the annual First Crane Sighting Contest and this year’s winner was Deb Silva, of Craig.

Silva’s photograph of a pair of cranes was taken at 6:15 p.m. March 7 in a field off of Moffat County Road 30 outside of Craig.

It was the first of over 40 individual reports and photos of returning Greater Sandhill Cranes submitted to the annual competition.

For the first time the crane coalition offered additional prizes for first sightings throughout regions of the Yampa Valley.

Regional winners were:

• Stephen Riley — Steamboat Springs

• Holly Harker — Craig

• Martha Carroll — North Routt

• Tom Kostur — West Routt

• The Fernley Family — South Routt.

And a special “kid prize” was awarded to Riley Gunn, 4, who submitted a photo of a crane she spotted in a pond on the corner of U.S. Highway 40 and Moffat County Road 42.

The photographs captured images of the return migration of cranes that are believed to have nested in the area through the ages.

“The same sandhills we know today were foraging, nesting and rearing chicks alongside the pre-historic megafauna that dominated Colorado’s wildlife during the late Pleistocene Period,” according to the crane facts available at

The second competition — the 2017 Yampa Valley Crane Festival Photo Contest — recognizes photographers for images depicting the daily lives of cranes in the valley.

The coalition uses the credited images for promotion of the festival and area cranes.

“At first we only had photos of cranes from other areas of the county, not of our cranes in the Yampa Valley,” Merrill said.

Photographers of all ages are invited to submit images of Greater Sandhill Cranes with separate categories for professional, amateur and youth (under 18) photographers. Each person may submit two photographs. Photos must have been taken between Sept. 1, 2016 and Aug. 13. Photos along with the photographer’s name, age (if under 18), date taken and title of the image should be emailed to

Winners will be announced and prizes — gift certificates with values ranging from $25 to $200 depending on category and place — will be awarded at the Yampa Valley Crane Festival Aug. 31 through Sept. 3 in Steamboat Springs and Hayden.

Complete photo contest rules, with more about the festival and cranes in Northwest Colorado can be found at

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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