Project Updates – 2002

– Winter 2002: Weekly Updates on Whooping Crane Activity in Florida
– Fall: Daily Updates from the Ultralight-Let Migration
– September 2002: Status Report on the First Cohort of Migratory Whooping Cranes Reintroduced into North America
– June 2002: Project Update
– May 6 to 16, 2002: Update on 2001 Cohort
– Spring: Wild Whooping Cranes Return to Wisconsin

Winter 2002: Weekly Updates on Whooping Crane Activity in Florida

whooping crane
Photo courtesy of Operation Migration, Inc.

Jan. 4-10, 2002

Jan. 11-17, 2002

Jan. 18-24, 2002

Feb. 1 – 7, 2002

Feb. 8 – 14, 2002

Feb. 15 – 23, 2002

Feb. 24 – March 1, 2002

March 2 – 9, 2002
March 17 – 23, 2002
March 24 – 30, 2002


Fall: Daily Updates from the Ultralight-Led Migration

2002 Project Information

November 30, 2002 – Migration Completed! 
November 29, 2002
 – Levy County, Florida

ovember 28, 2002 – Gilchrist County, Florida
November 27, 2002
 – Hamilton County, Florida

November 26, 2002 – Terrell County, Georgia
November 25, 2002 – Pike County, Georgia
November 24, 2002 – Gordon County, Georgia
November 23, 2002 – A team divided – Meigs County, Tennessee and Gordon County, Georgia
November 22, 2002
 – grounded in Meigs County, Tennessee

November 21, 2002 – grounded in Meigs County, Tennessee
November 20, 2002 – grounded in Meigs County, Tennessee
November 19, 2002 – grounded in Meigs County, Tennessee
November 18, 2002 – Meigs County, Tennessee
November 17, 2002 – grounded in Fentress Co., Tennessee
November 16, 2002 – grounded in Fentress Co., Tennessee
November 15, 2002 – grounded in Fentress Co., Tennessee
November 14, 2002 – Fentress County, Tennessee
November 13, 2002 – Adair County, Kentucky
November 12, 2002 – Washington County, Kentucky
November 11, 2002 – Jennings County, Indiana
November 10, 2002
 – Hendricks and Morgan Counties, Indiana

November 9, 2002 – Hendricks and Morgan Counties, Indiana
November 8, 2002 – Hendricks and Morgan Counties, Indiana
November 7, 2002 – Flock splits into two groups – Hendricks and Morgan Counties, Indiana
November 6, 2002 – Grounded, Boone County, Indiana
November 5, 2002 – Grounded, Boone County, Indiana
November 4, 2002 – Grounded, Boone County, Indiana
November 3, 2002 – Boone County, Indiana
November 2, 2002
 – Grounded in Benton County, Indiana
November 1, 2002 – Grounded in Indiana
October 31, 2002 – Benton County, Indiana
October 30, 2002 – Kankakee County, Illinois
October 29, 2002
 – Wind and rain, no fly
October 28, 2002 – High winds, no fly
October 27, 2002 – LaSalle, County, Illinois
October 26, 2002 – Ogle County, Illinois
October 25, 2002 – Grounded
October 24, 2002 – Grounded
October 23, 2002 – Grounded
October 22, 2002 – Grounded
October 21, 2002 – Grounded
October 20, 2002 – Green County, Wisconsin
October 19, 2002 – Grounded
October 18, 2002 – Grounded
October 17, 2002 – Grounded
October 16, 2002 – Sauk County, Wisconsin
October 15, 2002 – No Fly Day
October 14, 2002 – Juneau County, Wisconsin
October 13, 2002 – Whooping Cranes Leave Necedah!
Video from migration:whooping cranes and ultralight


whooping cranes

September 2002: Status Report on the First Cohort of Migratory Whooping Cranes Reintroduced into North America


After being led by Operation Migration ultralight aircraft from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin, six whooping cranes reached Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida, on December 5, 2001. Another whooping crane, transported in a box by truck during the migration, reached Chassahowitzka NWR the previous day. Those seven whooping cranes were released into a remote, open-topped pen on the Refuge which is located on the central Gulf Coast of Florida. Unfortunately, on December 17 a bobcat killed the whooping crane that had been trucked during the migration. After a bobcat killed another crane on the night of January 9, more rigorous overnight protection measures (i.e., making sure the birds roosted either within the predator-proofed pen or in water more than 20 feet from shore) were implemented, and no more cranes were taken by bobcats.

whooping crane
Photo courtesy of Operation Migration, Inc.

Spring Migration

The five remaining cranes began migration as a single flock on April 9 and flew to Wilcox County in southcentral Georgia. After being grounded for 2 days with rain, they made a short flight to Henry County, Georgia, on April 12. After another day of rain, they resumed migration on April 14. During that day’s flight over northern Georgia, a female (no. 7) separated from the other four birds. She eventually landed in McMinn County, in southeastern Tennessee. The main group of four whooping cranes proceeded to Fentress County, northeastern Tennessee. The group of four flew on 4 of 5 more days with stops in Johnson County, Indiana; Cook County (Chicago Metro Area), Illinois; and Dodge County, Wisconsin, before landing at at Necedah NWR on April 19. The entire migration took the group 11 days, of which 7 were flight days. The route was roughly direct; distance covered per flight day varied from 93 to 238 miles. Meanwhile, through April 18 crane no. 7 stopped in Kentucky (exact location unknown) and Jasper County, Indiana, before landing in Rock County, Wisconsin. She remained at that location until April 30 and then flew to Crawford County in Wisconsin. From there she then flew to Necedah NWR in Juneau County on May 3.

Spring Wandering

After finishing their migration in Wisconsin, the whooping cranes, like previously released experimental sandhill cranes led on fall migration by ultralight aircraft, moved around to various locations in Wisconsin. They generally moved south and east of Necedah NWR, during spring 2002. After their return and one night of roosting on Necedah, all of the cranes left the following day. The group of four (nos. 1, 2, 5, and 6) moved to several sites south and southeast, spending the most time south in southern Juneau County and Jefferson Counties. No. 6 separated from the other birds around May 20. The group of three returned to Necedah NWR, moved back to southern Juneau County, then returned to Necedah on June 26. No. 6 returned to Necedah NWR on June 9.

No. 7 (the lone female) apparently spent May 5 through 26 in southern Wisconsin (exact location unknown), moved to Adams County, then to Winnebago/Fond du Lac Counties where she remained until June 22. She then moved to southern Fond du Lac County.

Summer Home Range

After his return on June 9, no. 6 settled in Necedah Refuge and remained there for the summer. The group of three also returned to Necedah NWR. No. 5 eventually separated from this group spent the remainder of the summer on the northern part of the refuge. Nos. 1 and 2, a male and female behaving as a pair, briefly left the Refuge to the northwest but returned to Necedah on July 7 and remained for the summer. All of the whooping cranes have associated with sandhill cranes, and nos. 1, 2, and 6 have consistently roosted with sandhill cranes since mid-July.

Conclusions and Prospectus

Survival of the migratory flock has been 100{3f72e8ded4d47acce7842a60e006ced52f5015bd23a49866b41b0e3eb0f030be} through late winter, spring, and summer. Foraging, roosting, and human avoidance behaviors are currently within acceptable limits. The birds will continue to be monitored and will be tracked during fall migration to wintering areas.

June 2002: Project Update

Whooping cranes are one of the best known endangered species. They symbolize the struggle to maintain the vanishing creatures of our world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with cooperating organizations, is taking steps to reintroduce a migratory population of whooping cranes east of the Mississippi River, nesting in Wisconsin.

Project Summary

About 1,400 whooping cranes existed in 1860. Their population declined because of hunting and habitat loss until 1941, when the last migrating flock dwindled to an all-time low of 15 wild birds. Since then, the wild population has slowly increased to over 170 on recent migrations. This flock winters in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf coast of Texas and migrates to Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. This flock is the only naturally occurring wild population in the world. Scientists have long recognized the risk of having all of the wild whooping cranes using one wintering and breeding location. With the cranes concentrated in one area, the population could be wiped out by disease, natural disaster, or human impacts. Whooping crane survival depends on additional, separated populations.

The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, and an extensive group of federal, state and private partners called the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, is reintroducing a second, migratory flock of whooping cranes into the eastern United States. This flock is expected to nest in central Wisconsin, after release at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, and they will migrate to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

The “Class of 2002” Whoopers in the Eastern U.S.

A total of seventeen whooping crane chicks were shipped this month from their hatching place at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin. These new chicks represent the “Class of 2002” whooping cranes who will learn to fly at the refuge following an ultralight aircraft. Although seven of these chicks are slightly older than the others and arrived at the refuge two weeks earlier, trainers hope to have all seventeen birds flying together for their aircraft-led migration south this autumn. Meanwhile, costumed pilots and handlers intend to divide the birds into three groups based on age. The groups will be raised and trained at different sites on the refuge to help ensure successful social development of all of the chicks.


The demand for accommodations at the refuge is high due to the age difference among this year’s chicks. Refuge staff met this demand by constructing a new, additional site for use this summer. With a large inundated roosting area, project staff expect this site to be a success, and consider it a job well done.


Successful training has already begun with this year’s seven oldest chicks. The trainers are excited to witness healthy, normally functioning chicks, who are learning the unique traits of wild whooping cranes quickly and eagerly.

“Class of 2001” Whoopers Are Making History
The “Class of 2001” flock of five whooping cranes who returned to the marshes of central Wisconsin on April 18, 2002 are doing well. Since returning, all five cranes have been frequenting the refuge. All of these birds are demonstrating wild behavior and are being monitored at safe distances by crane biologists. When autumn approaches, biologists will monitor the five whooping cranes as they migrate south for the first time on their own. The completion of that migration will mark the success of one full unassisted migration cycle for these birds, and the first for any whooping cranes east of the Mississippi River in over 100 years.

For Additional Information: Thanks to the efforts of organizations involved in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, endangered whooping cranes will again be seen in the eastern part of the United States, after a century long absence.

Check out these web sites:
International Crane Foundation
Operation Migration, Inc.
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Archives Home

May 6 to 16, 2002: Update on 2001 Cohort

May 6 – 16, 2002
Beth Goodman, Wisconsin Whooping Crane Coordinator
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Last week (6-10 May), our group of 4 whooping cranes roosted in a state Wildlife Area in Columbia County and during the day flew to fields where they foraged on last year’s corn.

Yesterday morning (15 May) I again tracked the 4 whoopers – on Friday (10 May) they had moved a bit further south to Jefferson County, again to a state Wildlife Area. The locals said that they seemed to roost during the evening along a wetland/stream area and during daytime they foraged in waste cornfields on private lands. They may have moved from their previous location due to increased farming activity – I noticed all the cornfields were being plowed.

May 15 was a clear, sunny perfect day to be in the field… all 4 radio transmitters emitted signals, and I found the cranes foraging on a hillside full of waste corn with knee high stalks and weeds (presumably not disced last fall to prevent erosion). The field overlooked some unplowed corn fields, a couple of ponds, a stream, and a small 9-hole golf course.

I could not have obtained a visual on the whooping cranes yesterday, nor could we have learned details of habitat they are using, were it not for the proprieters of a small golf course, who offered me access to nearby private property. These folks and many others in the area already knew they had very special whooping cranes in their community. They were excited about it and they were receptive to my cautionary comments about protecting the cranes’ privacy to protect and maintain the wildness of our first whooping cranes back in Wisconsin. I spoke with folks again this morning (16 May) and the whooping cranes are still there.

I have been incredibly gratified to find so many folks in different locations who are truly excited about our whooping crane reintroduction. As these cranes explore Wisconsin, we are learning that private lands and general public attitude are as important to our success as having numerous high quality wetlands!

In addition to the great habitat at Necedah NWR where the birds all “touched home base,” our five cranes have used at least 5 different state wildlife wetland areas in 5 different counties. The group of 4 cranes currently seems to be finding suitable habitat in areas where they previously migrated on their way back to Necedah.

2002 Spring Migration Updates


Spring: Wild Whooping Cranes Return to Wisconsin

Photo of year one whooping crane in wetland area in Georgia during migration north

Whooping cranes in Henry County, Georgia
WCEP Photo by Richard Urbanek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


May 6 – 16, 2002
May 4, 2002

May 3, 2002

April 28, 2002

April 22, 2002

April 20, 2002

April 19, 2002
April 18, 2002
April 17, 2002
April 16, 2002
April 15, 2002

April 14, 2002

April 13, 2002

April 11, 2002

April 10, 2002

Wondering what to do if you see the whooping cranes? We have the answer.

This Whooping Crane Migratory Reintroduction project involves numerous public and private partners, as well as many sponsors and donors who give of their time, money or resources in support or sponsorship of various partners or tasks. Check out how you can help reintroduce migratory whooping cranes to eastern North America.

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