USFWS – “Endangered” vs. “Threatened” species status

Graphic showing the total world population of Whooping Cranes – reflecting the recent shooting deaths of 4 of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo migratory population of Whooping Cranes while migrating through Oklahoma. Graphic courtesy of the International Crane Foundation

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Urgent action needed for Whooping Cranes

Four Whooping Cranes Are Dead

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are investigating the deaths— the result of an outrageous illegal shooting event. We are angry and heartsick. The International Crane Foundation, along with many partners, has invested millions of dollars and decades of time and expertise to bring Whooping Cranes back from the brink of extinction. And in an instant four birds are gone forever.  We can’t bring back these four, but we can bring the perpetrators to justice. We can redouble our efforts to protect Whooping Cranes along their hazardous migration routes. We can expand our cooperative work with hunters and hunting groups to increase awareness of Whooping Crane presence. And we can continue to be the voice and act for Whooping Cranes on their wintering grounds in Texas and through reintroduction efforts in Wisconsin and Louisiana. 

We can and we will. But not without your help.

Earlier this week we shared the news that a proposal is under consideration by the USFWS to downlist Whooping Cranes from Endangered to Threatened. We are deeply concerned about this proposal if it moves forward. These four deaths illustrate just how fragile the recovery of this species remains. Please take action today with a contribution.

Every crane counts.

Dr. Richard Beilfuss, International Crane Foundation President and CEO

P.S. Decades of hard work and vigilance have kept Whooping Cranes alive on our planet, and each one of you decided to help along the way. Together, we are playing a lead role in the historic comeback of Whooping Cranes. It is our collective legacy. 

International Crane Foundation

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Deaths Of Endangered Whooping Cranes Under Investigation

The following was posted December 16, 2021 by the Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Oklahoma Game Warden Jeremy Brothers approaches the injured whooping crane that later died due to its injuries.

Whooping Crane Deaths Under Investigation

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to investigate the deaths of endangered Whooping Cranes near Tom Steed Lake in Kiowa County.

One Whooping Crane was discovered by hunters who notified game wardens with ODWC. The Whooping Crane subsequently died while being transported to a veterinarian clinic. Additional evidence was recovered at the scene. The USFWS’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory conducted a necropsy and verified the cause of death as a shotgun wound.

Further investigation of the original crane’s location uncovered evidence of three additional Whooping Cranes, bringing the total loss to four. All of the deaths are being investigated by ODWC and USFWS law enforcement officers.

“This is sickening to see such a wanton waste of wildlife, and our Game Wardens are very eager to visit with the individual or individuals who committed this crime,” said Wade Farrar, Assistant Chief of Law Enforcement with the Wildlife Department. “Somebody out there knows something that will help in this investigation, and I trust that they will do the right thing and come forward.”

Whooping Cranes are an endangered species with a total population of approximately 500 birds in North America. Whooping Cranes are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act. A conviction for killing a Whooping Crane can carry up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine per person under the Endangered Species Act, and up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Reward Offered For Information

Anyone with information regarding the deaths of these Whooping Cranes is asked to contact the Wildlife Department’s Operation Game Thief at (918) 331-5555 or the USFWS’ Office of Law Enforcement in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 334-5202. Callers with information may remain anonymous.

Operation Game Thief, the Oklahoma Game Warden Association, ODWC’s Wildlife Diversity Program and the USFWS are offering cash rewards for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of these endangered cranes.

Whooping Cranes travel through Oklahoma during migrations to and from their breeding grounds in Texas. Most Whooping Crane sightings in Oklahoma are reported from mid-October through November. Whooping Crane sightings can be shared with the Wildlife Department online.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Plans to Gut Protections for Whooping Crane

The Center for Biological Diversity press release, December 13, 2021 

Buried in the Biden administration’s unified regulatory agenda released last week is a plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to weaken or end protections for several iconic species, including Whooping CraneKey deer and Florida panther.

The upcoming proposed rules could spell disaster for these three animals, notes a letter sent today to the Biden administration by the Center for Biological Diversity. Both the Whooping Crane and Key Deer are at severe risk from sea-level rise and climate change. The Florida Panther remains one of the most endangered cat populations in the world.

“It’s a gut punch that the Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to weaken protections for Whooping Cranes and Key Deer, when both species’ homes could be underwater in decades,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “And it’s appalling that the Fish and Wildlife Service is even considering moving forward with a Trump-era plan to reduce protections for the Florida Panther just to enrich special interest real-estate developers.”

Most of Big Pine Key — the biggest stronghold of the Florida Key deer — will be under water in decades because of sea-level rise caused by climate change, and the deer’s habitat is increasingly imperiled by more frequent and more intense hurricanes. In addition to habitat loss, the Key deer is threatened by the New World screwworm, which killed more than 10% of the entire population in 2016.

The Service’s own recovery plan calls
for at least 1,000 wild cranes before downlisting to threatened status can occur, but the population today remains

at only half that — 506 individuals.

The only wild, free-flying Whooping Crane population winters along the Texas coast around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which is also threatened by sea-level rise. The crane is also jeopardized by pesticides, powerline collisions, oil spills and habitat loss. The Service’s own recovery plan calls for at least 1,000 wild cranes before downlisting to threatened status can occur, but the population today remains at only half that — 506 individuals.

Records released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that the Fish and Wildlife Service regional office decided to begin the process of reducing panther protections in 2018 by downlisting them to threatened. That was years before the agency completed an official five-year review or species status assessment, neither of which are finished yet.

There are only approximately 200 Florida panthers in the world — that’s about half the size of the Siberian tiger population, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature ranks as critically endangered.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is thumbing its nose at President Biden’s directive to federal agencies to follow the best available science in all decisions, especially those relating to climate change,” said Hartl. “We’d hoped that the horrific anti-wildlife tactics so often employed during the Trump era had ended, but it appears we were wrong.”

Even before the Trump administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service routinely ranked among the worst agencies in terms of concerns about political interference undermining the scientific process. In a 2015 survey, 73% of responding Fish and Wildlife Service scientists reported that the level of consideration of political interests was too high.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Whooping Crane. Photo by Steve Gifford
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Historic First – Whooping Cranes Found Nesting in Texas

Louisiana whoopers_flight_grangerlk_friendshippk_12-28-11_Sara Zimorski_2010 cohort

Two Whooping Cranes from the 2010 cohort of the reintroduced, non-migratory population in Louisiana. Photo by Sara Zimorski

For the first time in recent history, two pairs of endangered Whooping Cranes have been found nesting in southeastern Texas. The Whooping Cranes, part of a non-migratory population originally introduced in Louisiana, are currently found on private land in Jefferson and Chambers counties.

The newcomers are part of a reintroduction the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) began in 2011. This designated non-essential population was introduced into historically occupied wetland habitats at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in southwest Louisiana. Since then, the current population of around 73 birds has nested and successfully hatched and reared chicks in a variety of wetland habitats throughout Louisiana, on both private and public lands.

Pair L8-16 and L22-17 met and paired in Chambers County in March 2019 and have not returned to Louisiana since.  Pair L24-16 and L14-17 met and paired at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Cameron Parish, Louisiana in December 2018 and made seasonal trips back and forth from Cameron Parish to Jefferson County, Texas before nesting this spring!

“We are excited to see this reintroduction effort show continued signs of success, with nesting now occurring in Texas,” said Amy Lueders, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “It’s a true reflection of the power of partnerships. We would also like to thank the private landowners who have been incredibly supportive of these efforts.”

“Conservation cannot happen in Texas and beyond without the support and dedication of our private landowners,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “We look forward to our continued efforts with our vast network of partners, especially private landowners, to ensure whooping cranes, and all of our wildlife in Texas, thrive in the future.”

“We appreciate the cooperation and assistance of our Texas partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and especially the private landowners whose properties are supporting the survival of the Louisiana cranes,” LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet said.  “Of course wildlife does not respect state boundaries, so our Louisiana cranes sought out suitable habitats in southeast Texas to establish territories and nests.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed an agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service that provides private landowners in southeast Texas similar regulatory protections that landowners hosting whooping cranes in Louisiana receive and also provides technical assistance to plan conservation actions that enhance wetland habitats for a variety of wildlife species.

“Conservation plans developed by the NRCS are voluntary and available upon producer request at no cost.  These plans specify options for practices and management to meet the conservation measures for this population of Whooping Crane,” said Frank Baca, USDA NRCS Wildlife Biologist. “Additionally, farm bill programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are available to provide cost assistance to producers that may want to maintain or enhance habitat for these birds or other wildlife on their working lands.”

The public is reminded to keep a distance from the birds and to not trespass on private property to observe them.

“These birds are particularly sensitive to human disturbance while they are nesting, so please stay at least 1,000 feet away when viewing Whooping Cranes,” said Wade Harrell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Whooping Crane Coordinator. “This will ensure that the birds have a chance to hatch and rear their chicks successfully.”

Whooping Cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America. Cranes have been documented to live more than 30 years in the wild. Adults generally reach reproductive age at four or five years, and then lay two eggs, usually rearing only one chick during the breeding season.

The non-migratory population now found nesting in Louisiana and Texas is different from the self-sustaining wild Aransas-Wood Buffalo Population. This population of more than 500 Whooping Cranes breeds in the wetlands of Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada and spends the winter on the Texas coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport.

More information about the Whooping Crane reintroduction effort can be found on the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at

USFWS Aubry Buzek, (512) 962-0289,
LDWF Sara Zimorski, (337) 536-7006,
USFWS Wade Harrell, (361) 676-9953,
USDA Frank Baca, (979) 985-4526,
TPWD Press Office, (512) 389-8030,

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Honoring Gee Whiz – A Father of Whooping Crane Conservation

The following is from a March 12, 2021 press release courtesy of the International Crane Foundation NewsroomNorth AmericaTravels with GeorgeWhooping Crane

Gee Whiz at home in Crane City in Baraboo, WI

Gee Whiz, a Whooping Crane extremely important to crane reintroduction, passed away recently in Crane City, our breeding facility. He lived for 38 years and nine months.

A miracle from inception, Gee Whiz was the first Whooping Crane to hatch at the International Crane Foundation and only the fifth Whooping Crane at our headquarters. He also was the only living son of Tex, a legendary Whooping Crane made famous by her closest friend, International Crane Foundation Co-founder Dr. George Archibald. The world learned about Tex when George appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1982 to tell their inspiring story of Whooping Crane reintroduction perseverance. George Archibald danced with Tex to induce her to lay eggs.

“I worked with Tex for seven years before a successful hatch of Gee Whiz in 1982,” recalled International Crane Foundation Co-founder George Archibald. “I was 36 when Gee Whiz hatched and 74 when he died. During those intervening years, Gee Whiz, with the assistance of the International Crane Foundation’s excellent staff, produced many offspring.

“During those years, I spent much of my time in Asia and Africa helping other cranes,” George continued. “When home, I visited Gee Whiz from time to time. He was perhaps the most aggressive of our cranes and greeted everyone, including his stepdad, with threat postures and loud calls. He had amazing vitality.”

Gee Whiz hatched June of 1982 at the International Crane Foundation through an artificial insemination (AI) process from semen sent to the International Crane Foundation from the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. He is named after Dr. George Gee, who worked at Patuxent and collected the semen used for AI.

A tenacious bird, Gee Whiz beat the odds, thanks to the innovative care of dedicated staff. His egg was underweight, and he was very weak at hatch. Gee Whiz required a lot of human intervention to gain strength and develop into a strong chick.

A resident of the International Crane Foundation his whole life, Gee Whiz is best known for being a father of Whooping Crane conservation, having been the patriarch of a family of 178 genetically diverse Whooping Cranes through four decades. For many years, Gee Whiz shared his pen with his mate Oobleck.

Gee Whiz’s paternal efforts helped bring back one of the most endangered bird families on the planet, from numbers as low as 14 in the 1940s to more than 800 birds today.

Gee Whiz’s contributions to Whooping Crane Conservation ensure Whooping Cranes remain on the landscape, especially in the Eastern Flyway, the home to many of Gee Whiz’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They carry on the battle of Whooping Crane conservation, helping guarantee the survival of these beautiful, charismatic and tenacious birds.

Some of these offspring include a female Whooping Crane, who was reintroduced to Wisconsin’s landscape. Along with her mate, she made her home on a cranberry farm 60 miles north of Baraboo, Wisconsin. We refer to this pair as 5-11 and 12-11. For several years, the pair only produced infertile eggs. But around 2014, a researcher discovered their first chick.

“5-11 and 12-11 have fledged two chicks, W1-18 and W1-19, both of which are still alive. The pair almost fledged twins in 2020,” said Curator of Birds Kim Boardman. Another male descendant of Gee Whiz, 4-12, is part of the “Royal Couple,” the first pair to nest at White River Marsh in Wisconsin.

Two other offspring of Gee Whiz, 4-17 and 6-17, were part of a trio of Whooping Cranes observed last spring by George, as the triad made their home about five miles from the International Crane Foundation. More information about this triad is available through our Travel’s With George blog series.

Gee Whiz was known for his bigger than life personality. He was fiercely territorial of his house and enclosure at the foundation, requiring staff to have fast reflexes when working in his proximity. Kim recalls, “As the only offspring of Tex, his genetics were highly valuable, and much time was spent performing AI on Gee Whiz in the spring. “Everyone dreaded having to handle Gee Whiz for AI because he was an expert at finding the top edge of handlers’ boots and pecking or biting the handlers’ calves just above their boots or nipped at their fingers as they stroked his legs. To say he ‘left his mark’ was an understatement,” she continued.

To keep Gee Whiz’s legacy alive, please consider making a gift supporting our Whooping Crane reintroduction projects. With your gift we will continue establishing new, wild Whooping Crane populations in North America. Your generosity will strengthen our efforts to continue breeding, raising, releasing and monitoring Whooping Cranes in the wild. Gifts can be made here.

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Social distancing during COVID-19

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 1.48.55 PM

Created by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Please continue to do your part and stay home but if you have to go out for essentials remember to keep a Whooping Crane of space, or more, between yourself and others! Social distancing should be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks that cover your nose and mouth, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

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$10,000 reward offered for information on shooting of endangered Whooping Crane in Jefferson Davis Parish

3 January 2020-Louisiana_adj

An impressive gathering of Whooping Cranes striding across the Louisiana landscape on January 3, 2020 – all part of the reintroduced non-migratory population in Louisiana. Photo by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division is seeking information on the shooting death of an endangered Whooping Crane in Jefferson Davis Parish in November 2019.  Agents said the dead crane was found in a rice and crawfish field in the town of Elton, off Elton Drive in Jefferson Davis Parish on November 15, 2019. However, a necropsy determined that it had been killed by gunshot a day or two before being found.  Known to biologists as L11-18, the 1.5-year-old male Whooping Crane had been released as part of the December 2018 cohort.

Up to $10,000 is being offered by various groups for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal shooting of this whooping crane.  The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation is offering up to a $2,500 reward.  LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program and the Whooping Crane Conservation Association are each offering a reward of up to $1,000.  LDWF also received a private $5,000 donation from Dave Weeshoff of La Crescenta, California, and a $500 donation for the reward from the International Crane Foundation.

Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving Whooping Cranes is advised to call the LDWF’s Enforcement Division at 1-800-442-2511 or use the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions.

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Raising public awareness of Whooping Cranes one decade at a time

Hunter standing with WHCR and other birds displayed

Hunter posing for portrait with a Whooping Crane, Sandhill Cranes and waterfowl. Date and location unknown.

After the disappointing November 2019 ruling of “probation” for the poacher responsible for the 2018 shooting death of adult male Louisiana Whooper, L8-11 – the first Whooping Crane with his partner, L7-11, in the new Louisiana non-migratory flock to nest and lay eggs – my thoughts turned to public awareness of these endangered birds. Poachers are seldom charged under the Endangered Species Act, because prosecutors have to prove that the poacher knew that the killed animal was endangered. Even before the 1918 passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and biologists and others sounded the alarm that Whooping Cranes were headed toward extinction, Whooping Cranes had been in the public eye – whether as a target or as something to be protected. To all the Whooper “educators” out there – the scientists, conservation groups and concerned individuals who have worked through the decades, and continue to work in loose tandem with one another, toward the common goal of bringing an awareness of Whooping Cranes to others – thank you.

The Whooping Crane once ranged over most of North America, from the Arctic
coast south to central Mexico, and from Utah east to New Jersey, South Carolina, and Florida. Within historic times, the breeding range extended northwest from central Illinois, through Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, to the general vicinity of Edmonton, Alberta. Estimates from the mid-1800s put the total Whooping Crane population at 1,200 to 1,500, but by the 1890s breeding populations of the cranes had disappeared from the heart of their historic breeding range in the north-central United States. By the early 1900s, Whooping Crane numbers had plummeted.

What caused this rapid decline? The cranes’ known wetland breeding grounds were altered and disturbed as settlers plowed the native prairies and drained marshes for farming. Whooping Cranes also were hunted, and their eggs collected, leading to increased pressure on an already small population.

1966 anniv Migratory Bird Treaty act

50th Anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act between United States and Canada, 1966 postcard.

In 1918 the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made it illegal to hunt Whooping Cranes. Despite this and other early protection efforts the Whooping Crane population continued to decline. By the late 1930s, only two small flocks remained: a few nonmigratory birds around the tallgrass prairies near White Lake in southwestern Louisiana and one migratory flock that wintered in southeastern Texas and summered in western Canada.

In 1940 a hurricane “drove the birds in to the rice fields and most of them were shot by hunters or killed by the storm,” and the number of Whooping Cranes in the wild dropped to just 21 birds by the mid-40s. In 1950 the last individual in the Louisiana population, “Mac,” was removed from the wild leaving a total of only 34 surviving Whooping Cranes in the migratory flock.

Because of the critically low number of Whooping Cranes, biologists proposed a program of captive breeding. Beginning in 1967, eggs were transferred from the breeding grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center near Laurel, Maryland. The captive Whooping Cranes at Patuxent first produced eggs in 1975, and gradually the captive flock at Patuxent grew. This was the beginning of a long, complicated process involving the efforts of many individuals, conservation organizations and government agencies to protect the endangered Whooping Cranes. (The Patuxent captive breeding program ended in 2018.)In 1986, the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan was created by the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, a group of crane biologists and officials from the United States and Canada.


Whooping Crane L8-11 (left) with its mate L7-11 on nest with chick, April 13, 2017 in Avoyelles Parish. Photo by Eva Szyszkoski/Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

The results have been mixed. In 1975 biologists began an ambitious, first-time reintroduction attempt to establish a migratory Whooping Crane population in the Rocky Mountain states, placing Whooping Crane eggs in nests of would-be surrogate Sandhill Cranes at the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. This approach was discontinued when it was shown that the Whooping Cranes imprinted on the Sandhills and would not mate with Whooping Cranes. In 1993 biologists began a project to reintroduce a nonmigratory population of Whooping Cranes to Florida, but discontinued the program due to losses from predation, disease and reproductive failure. In 2001 the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) initiated a project to restore a migratory population in eastern North America using ultralight-led migration. A variation of the WCEP project continues but is plagued by ongoing reproductive failure and poaching. In 2011 a reintroduction project began to establish a nonmigratory population of the species in Louisiana. Despite poaching losses, the Louisiana reintroduction project is gaining traction as cohort members are starting to breed, nest and successfully fledge young. The goal of all the experimental populations is to achieve a self-sustaining population to help safeguard the Aransas-Wood Buffalo wild population.

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Public hearing and comment period for changes to the Sandhill season, is NOW!

IMG_8843_2_ photo by Vickie Henderson

Both adult and juvenile Sandhills probe the muddy field in search of silage, grain, insects and worms. Photo by Vickie Henderson

Time is running out for those opposed to the proposed changes to the Kentucky Sandhill Crane season. Unfortunately,  due to lack of public comment in March 2018 when the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources District Commissioners met, some of the Commissioners thought there was no opposition to the changes in the season regulation, and subsequently voted to send it on to the Legislative Research Committee for approval.

After seven years of the “new” Kentucky Sandhill season that saw consistently low hunter participation and seasonal “harvests” of less than 200 cranes, regulation increases are now in the works. The amended hunt regulations promise extension of the season from 30 days to 56 days, and the harvest limit of 400 cranes will become the maximum allowed by USFWS – almost three times that number of cranes. While a zone-closure of the eastern portion of Green River Lake to allow an additional roosting  area for the cranes is commendable, the reasoning behind it is solely for hunter opportunity. Cranes will continue to be vulnerable to hunting as they come and go from this “protected” roosting area, making the new “wildlife viewing opportunity” promised by this closure non-existent.

The following gives details for making your comments, and/or attending the scheduled public hearing. Act now!

301 KAR 2:228. Sandhill crane hunting requirements.

PUBLIC HEARING AND PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD: A public hearing on this administrative regulation shall be held on May 24, 2018 at 10 a.m. at the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in the Commission Room of the Arnold L. Mitchell Building, #1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort, Kentucky. Individuals interested in attending this hearing shall notify this agency in writing by five business days prior to the hearing of their intent to attend. If no notification of intent to attend the hearing is received by that date, the hearing may be canceled. This hearing is open to the public. Any person who attends will be given an opportunity to comment on the proposed administrative regulation. A transcript of the public hearing will not be made unless a written request for a transcript is made. If you do not wish to attend the public hearing, you may submit written comments on the proposed administrative regulation through May 31, 2018. Send written notification of intent to attend the public hearing or written comments on the proposed administrative regulation to:

Mark Cramer 
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources 
Arnold L. Mitchell Building, #1 Sportsman’s Lane 
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
phone (502) 564-3400
fax (502) 564-0506 

To read the proposed amendment to the Kentucky Sandhill Crane season, go here:

For the May 1, 2018 Legislative Research Committee’s Administrative Register of Kentucky and the Sandhill Crane hunting requirements, go here:

301 KAR 2:228. Sandhill crane hunting requirements.
(1) Provide a brief summary of:

  • (a) What this administrative regulation does: This administrative regulation establishes sandhill crane seasons, bag limits and requirements on public lands within federal migratory bird hunting frameworks established in 50 C.F.R. Parts 20 and 21 according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
  • (b) The necessity of this administrative regulation: The necessity of this administrative regulation is to establish the 2018-2019 sandhill crane hunting requirements on private and public lands in accordance with the USFWS and Department management objectives.
  • (c) How this administrative regulation conforms to the content of the authorizing statutes: KRS 150.025(1) authorizes the department to promulgate administrative regulations to establish open seasons for the taking of wildlife and to regulate bag limits. KRS 150.360 authorizes the department to restrict methods for the taking of wildlife. KRS 150.600 authorizes the department to regulate the taking of waterfowl on public and private land. This administrative regulation establishes procedures for the taking of migratory game birds within reasonable limits and within the frameworks established by 50 C.F.R. Parts 20 and 21.
  • (d) How this administrative regulation currently assists or will assist in the effective administration of the statutes: By establishing sandhill crane hunting seasons and area specific requirements, this administrative regulation maintains and manages migratory game bird conservation efforts consistent with national and international management goals.

(2) If this is an amendment to an existing administrative regulation, provide a brief summary of:

  • (a) How the amendment will change this existing administrative regulation: This amendment will change the timing of the season and season length to coincide with duck seasons. It will change the number of permits available from a fixed 400 permits to the maximum allowed by the USFWS for that season. Tags with each permit will go from a fixed two (2) per permit to a system where one (1) tag is allocated to each permit holder and any remaining tags are allocated to permit holders in order of drawing. The application period for sandhill crane permits will be moved to September with the drawing held in early October. The eastern portion of Green River Lake will now have a no crane-hunting zone created. This amendment also removes a season closure if harvest were to reach 400 cranes.
  • (b) The necessity of the amendment to this administrative regulation: This amendment is necessary to provide additional hunting opportunity for Kentucky’s sandhill crane hunters, to move the application period to September to conform to other quota hunt application periods, and to protect a roosting area on Green River Lake. At the completion of Kentucky’s Experimental Season Period, the USFWS granted Kentucky additional harvest opportunity. This amendment allows for additional hunting days (56 vs. 30) while simplifying regulations similar to duck seasons. For the 2017-2018 season, 30% of applicants were turned away for a lack of permits. The new application period also provides additional time for the delivery of permits and tags. The closure of crane hunting on Green River Lake protects a roosting area that will result in additional hunting and wildlife viewing opportunity.
  • (c) How the amendment conforms to the content of the authorizing statutes: See 1(c) above.
  • (d) How the amendment will assist in the effective administration of the statutes: See 1(d) above.

(3) List the type and number of individuals, businesses, organizations, or state and local governments affected by this administrative regulation: For the 2017-2018 season, there were a total of 565 applicants for the crane quota hunt.

(4) Provide an analysis of how the entities identified in question (3) will be impacted by either the implementation of this administrative regulation, if new, or by the change, if it is an amendment, including:

  • (a) List the actions that each of the regulated entities identified in question (3) will have to take to comply with this administrative regulation or amendment: Applicants will now be required to apply during the month of September, and hunters will be prohibited to hunt in a protected area of Green River Lake.
  • (b) In complying with this administrative regulation or amendment, how much will it cost each of the entities identified in question (3): There will be no additional costs in order to comply with this amendment.
  • (c) As a result of compliance, what benefits will accrue to the entities identified in question (3): More hunters will be able to participate in the annual crane hunt, and it is possible for hunters to harvest an additional crane depending on the number of applicants and their draw ranking. The prohibited hunting area in Green River Lake will protect the crane population in a key roosting area, which is important to the long-term sustainability of the population.

(5) Provide an estimate of how much it will cost the administrative body to implement this administrative regulation:

  • (a) Initially: This administrative regulation change will result in no initial change in administrative cost to the Department
  • (b) On a continuing basis: There will be no additional cost on a continuing basis.

(6) What is the source of the funding to be used for the implementation and enforcement of this administrative regulation: The source of funding is the State Game and Fish Fund.

(7) Provide an assessment of whether an increase in fees or funding will be necessary to implement this administrative regulation, if new, or by the change if it is an amendment: It will not be necessary to increase any other fees or increase funding to implement this administrative regulation.

(8) State whether or not this administrative regulation established any fees or directly or indirectly increased any fees: No new fees will be established directly or indirectly.

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