WHOOPING CRANE EASTERN
First Wild Whooping Crane Chicks Hatch
in the Midwest in Over 100 Years
Photos of the whooping crane
Rachel F. Levin, (612) 713-5311
Joan Garland 608-356-9462,
x142; 608-381-1262 (cell)
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) is celebrating a milestone in its efforts
to reintroduce a wild whooping crane flock in eastern North America. On
June 22, two whooping crane chicks hatched at the Necedah
National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin. This historic event marks the
first time in over 100 years that a whooping crane has hatched in the
wild in the Midwest.
The two chicks
are offspring of whooping crane pair 11-02 (a male) and 17-02 (a female)
from the ultralight-led crane Class of 2002. The pair nested earlier this
spring at the refuge, but their egg(s) were lost--likely due to predators.
They renested and began incubating on May 23.
the hatching of the first two wild chicks from the migratory whooping
crane reintroduction, another chapter in wildlife history has been made.
The journey took six long years of dedication, vision and believing it
could happen--as well as the blood, sweat and occasional tears of the
many partners that worked on the project. This is truly the start of a
new generation of wild things...and a symbol for restoring our wild places,"
said John Christian, co-chair of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.
is an incredible moment for the many dedicated people contributing to
this project, however, much like these young chicks, while weve
succeeded so far, theres much more work ahead to ensure this population
of whooping cranes will sustain itself for generations to come,
said Kelley Tucker, co-chair of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.
is a long awaited moment," said Signe Holtz, director of the Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources' Bureau of Endangered Resources, "the
success of this effort sets a goal for endangered species recovery efforts
everywhere. The partnership of public, private and government organizations
that has made this possible shows what can be done when we all pull together
with a common goal in sight. These chicks have a long and dangerous road
ahead of them, but with luck we'll see them wing south with their parents
In May, another
first occurred when two whooping crane chicks from a nest
in the wild hatched in captivity. WCEP biologists removed the two eggs
from a nest at the Necedah NWR after their parents wandered away from
the newly laid eggs for a long period of time. The chicks were hatched
at the Patuxent Wildlife Research
Center in Laurel, Maryland. They will join the crane Class of 2006,
which will learn the migration route between Necedah NWR and Chassahowitzka
NWR in Florida this fall by following Operation Migrations ultralight
from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have also begun releasing additional chicks into the company of older
birds in the fall at Necedah
NWR. These chicks will learn the migration route from adult whooping
cranes or sandhill cranes.
WCEP is using
this direct autumn release technique to complement the known success of the ultralight-led migrations.
Chicks for direct autumn release will be reared in the field and released
with older birds after fledging, or developing their flight feathers.
This method of reintroduction has been extensively tested with sandhill
cranes and proven successful. Four whooping cranes were released by this
method in the fall of 2005.
anyone who encounters whooping cranes in the wild to please give them
the respect and distance they need to remain wild. Do not approach birds
on foot within 600 feet and try to remain in your vehicle. Do not approach
cranes in a vehicle within 600 feet or, if on a public road, within 300
feet. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that
the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in
an attempt to view whooping cranes.
In 2001, Operation Migrations pilots first led whooping crane chicks conditioned to follow their ultralight
surrogates south from Necedah NWR to Chassahowitzka NWR. Each subsequent
year, WCEP biologists and pilots have conditioned and guided additional
groups of juvenile cranes to Chassahowitzka NWR.
from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service track and monitor north- and southbound cranes in an effort to
learn as much as possible about their unassisted migrations and the habitat
choices they make along the way. ICF and FWS biologists, along with Wisconsin
DNR biologists, and continue to monitor the birds while they are in their
In the first
four years of the project, returning whooping cranes have used wetlands
in 35 of 72 Wisconsin counties, primarily within the lower two-thirds
of the state along major rivers and wetlands. In addition to the core
reintroduction area of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, the birds
increased use of wetlands along the lower Wisconsin River and in more
than 15 state wildlife areas, private wetlands and Horicon NWR demonstrates
the value of preserved habitat to the success of this restoration effort.
cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, only about
300 birds exist in the wild. Aside from the 63 Wisconsin-Florida birds,
the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at the Wood
Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winters
at the Aransas
National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migrating
flock of approximately 60 birds lives year-round in the central Florida
cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed
in wetlands, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and aquatic plants.
They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies,
black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International
Crane, Foundation, Operation
Migration, Inc.,Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, U.S. Geological Survey's
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National
Wildlife Health Center, International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation,
and the Natural Resources Foundation
Many other states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups
have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding
and personnel. More than 60 percent of the projects budget comes
from private sources in the form of grants, donations and corporate sponsors.
and students are encouraged to visit Journey North for information and
curriculum materials related to the whooping crane project: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/crane/index.html
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