Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership logo
Non-profit organizations, individuals and government agencies joining forces to bring a migratory population of whooping cranes back to eastern North America


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WCEP: Who We Are


Costumed workers with 2 juvenile whooping cranes in Wisconsin.

Costumed staff work with juvenile whooping cranes. During October, the cranes will be released using the DAR method.

Photo by Eva Szyszkoski; International Crane Foundation

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP or “the partnership”) was formally organized in 1999 as a next step in the recovery of the whooping crane in North America.  Following the Whooping Crane Recovery Team’s recommendation that a migratory flock be restored to eastern North America, WCEP founding members came together to plan and carry out such a project, eventually forming a partnership consisting of over nine government and private sector organizations and over 70 people. 


The mission of the partnership is the restoration of a self-sustaining migratory population of whooping cranes in eastern North America.  Achievement of this mission will bring the whooping crane closer to recovery from its current status as a species in danger of extinction.


Founding members included U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), International Crane Foundation (ICF), Operation Migration (OM), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF).  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) have assisted the partnership since its inception.  Other states in the flyway and other organizations are important partners in restoration efforts and are welcome and encouraged to participate in WCEP activities as their interests and resources allow. 


Partnership Operations


March 2014 - WCEP Five Year Strategic Plan 2011–2015: March 2014 Status Report & Updates 14-page PDF Adobe pdf icon


December 2010 - Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership Five Year Strategic Plan - Dec. 2010 14-page PDF Adobe pdf icon


August 2010 - WCEP Partnership Guidance Document


March 2010 - WCEP: External Program Review


WCEP Annual Reports



Partner Roles


Operation Migration

Operation Migration, Inc. trains the young whooping cranes to follow behind ultralight aircraft. The Operation Migration pilots then lead the whooping cranes on their first fall migration to Florida. Operation Migration's website has daily journals of the spring and summer training work and the fall ultralight-led migration as well as wonderful photos and information about how you can contribute to the project.


International Crane Foundation

Biologists with the International Crane Foundation track wild whooping cranes that were reintroduced during previous years. The ICF website has journal entries from the crane trackers, information on all species of cranes, and lots of pages for kids, educators, interpreters, and naturalists.



USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is where the whooping crane chicks are hatched and reared before they are flown to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.  Patuxent's website provides photos and information about the whooping crane captive rearing process.  Video and vocalizations are available on their website.


The USGS National Wildlife Health Center provides health checks and other veterinary services for the project.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is the summer home and training area for each new cohort of whooping cranes. And their Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is the flock's wintering area.


The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act. They provided the legal framework for the reintroduction by establishing a Nonessential Experimental Population Area and preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on that designation.


Wisconsin DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources led development and maintains a comprehensive statewide management plan for the eastern migratory whooping crane population. The DNR contributes to the development of monitoring plans and activities, and works with WCEP partners to identify project data needs and priorities. DNR staff - including a full-time biologist who coordinates whooping crane activities - help monitor, collect and manage whooping crane data in Wisconsin. The DNR also coordinates with landowners to protect crane habitat on private, county and state lands; contributes veterinary care for Wisconsin's wild cranes; and helps with other crane health needs by being on the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.


Partner Fact Sheets

The Power of Partnership

International Crane Foundation (PDF)
International Whooping Crane Recovery Team (PDF)
Operation Migration (PDF)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (PDF)

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (PDF)
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (PDF)

USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PDF)
USGS National Wildlife Health Center (PDF)
Wisconsin Natural Resources Foundation (PDF)
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources(PDF)


All Partners

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Friends of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

Friends of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife

International Crane Foundation - Founding Member

International Whooping Crane Recovery Team - Founding Member

Journey North


Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - Founding Member

Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin - Founding Member

Operation Migration, Inc. (USA) - Founding Member

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Founding Member

USGS National Wildlife Health Center - Founding Member

USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center - Founding Member

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Founding Member



Mr. Dewitt (Deke) Clark
Mr. Sam Johnson
Charlotte and Walter Kohler Charitable Trust Fund
Mr. T. Kohler
Don and Paula Lounsbury
Ed and Viola (Nicholson) White



Defenders of Wildlife

Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund

Madison Gas & Electric Foundation

Marigold Ford Lincoln

George Weston Foundation

Wild Birds Unlimited/Pathways to Nature

Windway Capitol Corporation

World Wildlife Fund/Environment Canada's Endangered Species Recovery Fund

Yule-Hyde Industries



Timothy Alberg
Margaret Van Alstyne
Samuel Campbell
Mr. Richard Ford
Mr. P. Maeder
Mr. Frank Pearl
Cyrus and JoAnne Spurlino
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph T. Steuer

Appleton Papers
The Canadian Shield Foundation
Chingos Foundation
The Community Foundation
Daimler Chrysler
Darden Restaurants
Eagle Optics
Fort James Foundation
Foth & Van Dyke
General Motors Corporation
GlobalStar USA
Chas and Dorothy Inbusch Foundation
George Kress Foundation, Inc.
Midwest Birding Symposium
Safari Club (Wisconsin Chapter)
Swarovski Optics
R.D. and Linda Peters Foundation
The Summit Foundation
Walter Alexander Foundation, Inc.
Wildlife Forever
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Zeppos & Associates, Inc.