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! https://bit.ly/3skoDbL
“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 https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/subhome/whooping-crane.
USFWS Aubry Buzek, (512) 962-0289, firstname.lastname@example.org
LDWF Sara Zimorski, (337) 536-7006, email@example.com
USFWS Wade Harrell, (361) 676-9953, firstname.lastname@example.org
USDA Frank Baca, (979) 985-4526, email@example.com
TPWD Press Office, (512) 389-8030, firstname.lastname@example.org