WCEP Statement on the Death of Crane 15-06
May 1, 2007
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership regretfully announces the death of crane 15-06, the surviving member of the ultralight-led Class of 2006. The carcass of juvenile crane 15-06, a male, was discovered earlier this week at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve in Marion County, Florida. He had not been observed during an aerial search on April 21, and his radio signal was not detected during a ground search of the area on April 23. Veterinarians at the University of Florida’s Laboratory of Wildlife Disease Research will perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.
The 17 other juvenile whooping cranes of the Class of 2006 died during violent storms that struck central Florida on Feb. 1-2. Necropsy results show they were likely stunned by a lightning strike of sufficient strength to cause them to collapse in rising water and drown in their top-netted pen at Chassahowitzka NWR. Crane 15-06 managed to escape the pen during the storm and was discovered alive on Feb. 3.
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) Project Direction Team has undertaken a comprehensive review of the events leading up to the loss of these cranes. Once concluded, a summary of the report will be released to the public via the WCEP website at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/.
Review of Unusual Mortality of 17 Juvenile Whooping Cranes on February 1 & 2, 2007
Unusually severe storms that swept through northwest and central Florida on February 1, 2007, intensified after midnight and into the early morning hours of February 2. They left behind a trail of death and destruction that included severe property damage and the loss of 20 human lives. In addition, 17 of 18 reintroduced endangered whooping cranes were killed at a remote pen site on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Citrus County as a result of the storms. These birds represented most of the ultralight-led “Class of 2006,” part of an historic effort to reintroduce a migratory flock of whooping cranes to eastern North America. Until these storms, the project has seen great success and low mortality rates over the past six years.
The loss of almost an entire year’s cohort of birds was a significant setback for the project, and a blow to the substantial investment of personnel and funding that it took to raise, train and lead them on their first migration. As a result, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) has undertaken an intensive review of the mortality event with the goal of identifying and taking actions designed to minimize the damage done by such catastrophic storms in the future.
The WCEP Project Direction Team and field team leaders convened a number of conference calls during February through May to assemble the facts and data surrounding the mortalities and analyze the information to determine what might be done to minimize the losses from such an event in the future. In any project of this magnitude there is some risk involved, but by applying risk management principles, we can attempt to reduce the threat to the extent possible. Our staff, supporters and donors expect nothing less.
–The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership Project Direction Team and Team Leaders