USFWS ‘Vision’ may end ultralight-led migration

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Juvenile Whooping Cranes learning migration route, as seen from Operation Migration’s ultralight. – Photo

Last year in a document outlining its “vision” for Whooping Crane conservation over the next five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP*) switch to exclusively using adult Whooping Cranes to lead younger birds on southerly migrations each fall. Currently, the partnership relies on a mix of crane-led migrations, and those led by Operation Migration’s (OM) ultralight craft.

Operation Migration points to data derived from the WCEP database supporting the argument that the ultralight method is still the most successful thus far in terms of survivability, migratory behavior, and breeding success. In fact, this method most closely replicates the natural life history of the species in that OM teaches the young Whooping cranes a suitable migration route and cares for them until the following spring — just as adult Whoopers would.  However, if USFWS’s “vision” is adopted, the work begun in 2001 by OM towards building the eastern population of Whooping Cranes will come to an end.

The WCEP is committed to working together to continue building the eastern migratory population of Whooping Cranes. The group will be discussing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vision document at its January 20-21, 2016 meeting in Wisconsin as part of the development for the next five year strategic plan.

For those in support of continuing Operation Migration’s ultralight-led migrations, please click here to sign the petition:


Questions and concerns about the USFWS vision document should be directed to Georgia Parham at USFWS (812-334-4261 x 1203,

*WCEP 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.
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Juvenile Whooping Cranes following ultralight. Photo,

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