Whooping Cranes

Location of eastern population of Whooping Cranes as of December 31, 2014

ICF map of WHCR locations_31 Dec 2014The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) provides periodic updates as to the last known location of the Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. This map (by the International Crane Foundation) does not include birds that have not been reported for over one month, are known to have moved from a previous location or that are long term missing.

Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 103 birds (54 males, 49 females). Estimated distribution at the end of the report period included 40 whooping cranes in Indiana, 7 in Illinois, 9 in Kentucky, 7 in Tennessee, 17 in Alabama, 3 in Georgia, 14 in Florida, 4 at unknown locations, 1 not recently reported and 1 long term missing. The total for Florida includes 7 newly released juveniles.

This update is a product of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.  To access previous project updates and additional information on the project visit their web site at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/.

Report shows eastern migratory population of Whooping Cranes currently in seven states

Operation Migration has just posted an update (product of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP)) on the status of the Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population.  The February 28 report includes mortalities, updates on Direct Autumn Release (DAR), Ultralight and parent-reared birds and a listing of missing birds.  Read the entire report here.

Whooping Crane locations_28 Feb 2014_WCEP reportMaximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 103 birds (59 males and 44 females). Estimated distribution at the end of the report period or last record included 29 cranes in Indiana, 10 in Illinois, 9 in Tennessee, 7 in Kentucky, 15 in Alabama, 2 in Georgia, 15 in Florida, 13 at unknown locations and 3 not reported in ten or more months. The total for Florida includes 8 newly released juveniles. Long term missing cranes nos. 12-07 and 16-10 are now considered dead and are removed from the population totals above.

Individual Information for each whooping crane in the eastern flock. In this  PDF document, prepared by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnershipclick on the hatch year to view more information about the individual whooping crane.

Whooping Cranes in KY_12 Feb 2014_WCEP report

Pair of endangered Whooping Cranes shot in Louisiana – female killed, male seriously injured

To read story click here.

Dead female whooping crane found Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, with her wounded but still living mate near Roanoke in southwest Jefferson Davis Parish, La.  AP Photo/Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Dead female whooping crane found Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, with her wounded but still living mate near Roanoke in southwest Jefferson Davis Parish, La. AP Photo/Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries


South Dakota man sentenced for shooting endangered Whooping Crane

02142013_Crane_fws–mountain-prairieA 26-year-old Miller, South Dakota man must pay $85,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to illegally shooting an endangered whooping crane in April 2012, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson announced February 13, 2013.

Jeff Blachford entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno in Pierre on February 13, where he also was sentenced to two years of probation and a $25 assessment to the Victim Assistance Fund. Blachford must forfeit the rifle he used in the shooting and is prohibited from hunting, fishing or trapping anywhere in the United States for two years.

…“The Department of Justice works hand in hand with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and takes the killing of endangered species very seriously,” Johnson said.

The $85,000 will be paid to the International Crane Foundation (ICF) over time.

To read Rapid City Journal article click here.


Dallas duck hunter shoots, kills juvenile whooping crane

ARANSAS COUNTY — A Dallas duck hunter in January shot and killed one of this year’s 34 juvenile whooping cranes during its first visit to Texas, thinking it was a sandhill crane, according to state authorities.

Immature whooper and parent_FWS

Immature whooper and parent. Photo by FWS

Sandhill crane hunting is illegal near San Jose Island where the bird was killed and throughout the whooper’s traditional wintering habitat centered on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge north of Rockport.

The incident occurred Jan. 12, according to a Feb. 12 news release posted briefly on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The information was removed within days of appearing online.

…The endangered crane was shot by an avid freshwater duck hunter during his first coastal waterfowl hunt. Upon realizing his mistake, the hunter took the dead crane to a state game warden.  Click here to read complete story.

Two Whooping Cranes reported in Kentucky as of January 4, 2013

According to a Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) known locations of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population, there were two Whooping Cranes in Kentucky the first week of January. To read more click on the map below.

Whooping Crane Update November 10, 2012 to January 4, 2013 – Int'l Crane Foundation/WHooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP)

Whooping Crane Update
November 10, 2012 to January 4, 2013 – Int’l Crane Foundation/WHooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP)

San Francisco Chronicle_27 DEC 2012_Whooping Cranes spotted in midst of hunting season

Two sentenced in shooting death of male Whooping Crane #827

The investigation into another senseless Whooping Crane shooting has been brought to a close. Jason R. McCarter, 21 of Wheatland and John C. Burke, 23 of Monroe City, IN pled guilty to spotlighting the crane at night, then shooting and killing it with a high-powered rifle. As part of the plea agreement, Burke and McCarter each received: three years probation, are required to pay a donation of $5,000 to the International Crane Foundation, must perform 120 hours community service at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area and are not allowed to hunt during the term of the probation.

Citizen Tip Helps Close Knox County IN Whooping Crane Case

To read complete USFWS press release click here.

To read more about Crane #827 www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane/08/BandingCodes827.html.

To read more about the work of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership click here.

Whooping Crane on way to Canadian nesting grounds shot and killed in South Dakota

Another Whooping Crane has died – shot with a high-powered rifle April 24, 2012 as it stood in a field in South Dakota. It was migrating with two other birds back  to the Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada from wintering on the gulf coast of Texas. This brings to TWELVE the number of Whooping Cranes shot and killed in the last two and a half years.  

What am I – Whooping Crane or Sandhill Crane?

While it is somewhat easier to tell the difference between an adult Whooping Crane and an adult Sandhill Crane the juveniles are MUCH harder to tell apart (see below). Juvenile Whooping Cranes migrate through Kentucky often part of family groups, but in some instances – as in the case of Direct Autumn Release (DAR) juveniles – either alone or with other Whooping Cranes it has begun to associate with.  Most reported sightings of Whooping Cranes are of birds loosely associating with flocks of Sandhill Cranes at staging areas along the migration routes. In Kentucky they have been seen feeding together both at Barren River, Barren County and Cecilia in Hardin County.

What am I?

Whooping crane pair feed and rest at Patokah River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana on their migration south. Photo by Steve Gifford. 

The following article is from BirdWatchingDaily.com/Birding Briefs

The most lenient penalty ever: Why Whooping Cranes in the eastern population receive less protections than cranes in the west

Members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership are considering filing a civil lawsuit against the young men who shot a Whooping Crane in Indiana in 2009. After being prosecuted in criminal court this spring, the two were given punishments that amounted to a slap on the wrist: payment of $550 in legal fees and court costs, and a $1 fine and a year of probation for each.

It was by far the most lenient penalty ever for the shooting of a Whooping Crane. A man in a Texas case served six months in prison and was fined more than $10,000. And seven hunters who shot and killed two cranes in Kansas were fined a total of $23,586, and each spent two years on probation.

Crane-recovery experts note, however, that the birds in the western population, which migrates between coastal Texas and northern Canada, are more fully protected under the Endangered Species Act than birds in the east.

That’s because the eastern cranes are reintroduced and are designated “nonessential experimental populations” by the federal government.

A result of the designation is that Endangered Species Act penalties do not apply if a Whooping Crane is shot accidentally in the course of an otherwise legal activity, such as hunting. A shooter may still be prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state laws, however.

In an intentional shooting of a reintroduced crane, the protections of the Endangered Species Act would apply.

Dead Whooping Crane, Calhoun Co. GA, December 2010. Photo credit: GA DNR

Since 1998, 11 cranes in the eastern population have been shot. Eight of the deaths remain unsolved: a non-migratory crane shot in 1998 in Orange County, Florida; a migratory bird killed in July 2004 in Oceana County, Michigan; another migratory crane shot in December 2004 in Limestone County, Alabama; and five migratory cranes killed last winter in Georgia and Alabama.

Until the charges were brought in the Indiana case, only one other shooting of non­essential experimental Whooping Cranes had been solved: In 2001, an 18-year-old man was found guilty of shooting two birds near St. Augustine, Florida.

His sentence: 75 days in jail, two and a half years probation, loss of driving privileges and daily curfew during probation, and 200 hours of community service.

Read response to penalty from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (BirdWatching, August 2011 “yourletters”)

April 18, 2011

Citizen Tip Leads to Closure of Whooping Crane Shooting in Indiana

Contact: Tina Shaw, 612-713-5331

Closure comes in the case of matriarch whooping crane shooting because of a citizen tip. Wade Bennett of Cayuga, Ind. pled guilty and was sentenced on March 30, 2011, for his involvement in the shooting of a whooping crane in Vermillion County, Ind. Bennett and a juvenile were charged and sentenced in Indiana State Court, in Vermillion County, Ind. Bennett and the juvenile received probation, fines and fees for their involvement in the shooting of the crane. Voluntary information from a local citizen was instrumental in closing this case.

Wildlife law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources investigated the shooting of the crane. The crane, last observed alive by an International Crane Foundation (ICF) staff member on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, was found dead by an ICF volunteer found on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009, in rural Vermillion County, Ind.

The crane, identified by a leg band, was known as the matriarch of the reintroduction program and was the seven-year old mother of “Wild 1-06,” the first whooping crane chick successfully hatched (in 2006) and fledged by reintroduced cranes raised in captivity.

Read the full press release here:  http://www.fws.gov/midwest/News/release.cfm?rid=387

Killers of Whooping Crane in Indiana receive probation, $1 fine

Whooping Cranes 17-02 and 11-02 raise their necks and call at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in fall 2006. They were the first birds in the eastern migratory population to successfully raise a chick. Photo by Richard Urbanek/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The two people who pleaded guilty in the 2009 shooting of Whooping Crane 17-02 (shown here with her mate, 11-02) each received one year of probation, were charged approximately $300 in legal fees and court costs, and were fined $1 for the crime.

Wade Bennett of Cayuga, Indiana, and a juvenile pleaded guilty in state court in Vermillion County, Indiana, and were sentenced on March 30, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The juvenile’s name was not released because he is a minor.

The shooting occurred on November 30, 2009, near a rural county road just east of the Illinois state line. The Indiana conservation officer in Vermillion County had received information “about a group of boys who were road hunting,” said Special Agent Buddy Shapp of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “They would drive around shooting whatever (animals) they saw, kind of like target practice. They had been squirrel hunting, and then they came upon a large white bird and just shot it.”

Read the full Bird Watching/www.birdwatchingdaily.com/Field of View article here: http://cs.birdwatchingdaily.com/BRDCS/blogs/field_of_view/archive/2011/04/19/killers-of-whooping-crane-in-indiana-receive-probation-1-fine.aspx
No comment from U.S. Attorney on crane killing

Whooping crane with sandhills, Barren Co., KY, February 2010

Second J
uvenile Whooping Crane Found Dead In Alabama Reward in Alabama Whooping Crane Deaths now
at $23,250

February 18, 2011

Federal investigators have discovered the remains of a second whooping crane at Weiss Lake on the Alabama-Georgia border.

The second crane, identified as DAR #22-10, a crane released last year in Wisconsin in the company of other older cranes, was found less than a quarter-mile from whooping crane #12-04.

Investigators believe #12-04 was shot sometime before January 28, and consider the deaths linked. Laboratory results are still pending.

A hefty reward now stands at $23,250, a combined total contributed by 18 non-governmental organizations, federal agencies, and private individuals for additional information on the deaths of the two whooping cranes leading to successful prosecution of the perpetrator(s).

“We hope this reward may help generate leads from anyone who may know about these deaths,” said Jim Gale, Special Agent in Charge of Law Enforcement in the Service’s Southeast Region. “We are working hard to bring the offender or offenders to justice and greatly appreciate any assistance the public can offer.”

To provide information, call Special Agent John Rawls at 334-285-9600, or e-mail him at john_rawls@fws.gov.

Ultralight-led Whooping Crane Found Dead in Alabama $6,000 Reward Offered
for Information on the Killing of Whooping
Crane 12-04

February 9, 2011

Contacts: Tom MacKenzie, FWS (404) 679-7291, tom_mackenzie@fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the death of a whooping crane reported by an Alabama conservation officer at Weiss Lake, in Cherokee County Ala., on Jan. 28, 2011. The lake is located midway between Atlanta, Birmingham, and Chattanooga. Investigators believe the crane was shot

The male whooping crane, designated 12-04, was equipped with a transmitter and leg bands to help track his movements. Trackers located it in January with other whooping cranes in a Cherokee County field not far from the lake where it was killed.

Scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., are conducting a necropsy on the dead crane. It is the only lab in the world dedicated to crimes against wildlife.

Raised in Wisconsin at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, whooping crane 12-04 learned how to migrate behind ultralight aircraft flown by Operation Migration.…

Read the full release here:  http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2011/11-013.html

Direct Autumn Release (DAR) young whooping cranes with adults. Photo by USFWS, Dr. Richard Urbanek

Reward Fund Now at $20,800: Georgia DNR Board Passes Resolution in Support of Investigating Whooping Crane Killing

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (Jan. 27, 2011) – The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board passed a resolution today supporting the investigation of the recent killing of three whooping cranes in Calhoun County, Ga. Members of the Georgia DNR Board and the Georgia DNR Foundation also are contributing an additional $4,800 to the reward fund.  This addition brings the total reward fund amount to $20,800.

Read the full news release here: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2011/11-008.html

In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided
to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at 404-763-7959 and/or Georgia Department of Natural Resources 24hr. TIP Hotline at 1-800-241-4113.

Whooping crane with sandhills, Barren Co., KY, February 2010

As of late October 2010 there are approximately 96 birds in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) of whooping cranes, consisting of 52 males, 42 females and two wild-hatched chicks.  While this reintroduced eastern population of whooping cranes is considered “nonessential” by USFWS, years of time, money and dedication have gone into its establishment.

Beginning in 2000, Operation Migration’s ultralight-led groups of juvenile whooping cranes have passed through Kentucky headed south to their wintering grounds at Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida.  The following spring the young birds migrate on their own northward back to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Wisconsin. With each passing year there has been an increase in whooping crane sightings reported from around the state.

To report a WHCR sighting go to:

For more whooper information and reintroduction efforts of Operation Migration:

For more information about the reintroduction effort, visit http://www.bringbackthecranes.org

Hunting and whooping cranes:
Whooping Crane Information

Wisconsin Statutes Section9

Whooper fatalities:
Three endangered whooping cranes found dead in south Georgia

December 2009 shooting of whooper in Vermillion Co. IN

Bad year for both Aransas whoopers and Necedah nests

4 Responses to Whooping Cranes

  1. Bill McReynolds says:

    I don’t understand why USFWS has reduced it’s protection of the Whooping Crane, under the Endangered Spec Act; It’s not as if it’s protection is limiting any commercial activity. And the prospective hunting approval of the Sandhill Crane in KY is equally inexplicable. It doesn’t seem to be an attractive quarry to me. Shooting it would’t be much of a challenge, eating it is not likely to catch on, and it threatens the somewhat protected Whooping Crane, which fraternizes with the Sand Hill. They are both handsome and interesting creatures that a lot of people like to watch. There are people that just like to shoot living things regardless of season, however, like the man in Johnny Cash’s song that shot a man just to watch him die!

  2. ky4cranes says:

    This sighting was posted on the Indiana Bird listserve November 28, 2010

    Several groups of Sandhill Cranes have been flying over my home in southern Washington county in the late morning today, Sunday, November 28th. Then, at 12:30pm, I heard a low flying group approaching from the north so I walked out of the garage to see a group of about 50 flying fairly low directly overhead and in the V formation was one very obvious Whooping Crane. Everyone got to come outside and get great binoc looks of our “Property Bird” #142…It was good to see the Whooper safely flying with a large group of Sandhills migrating south in a timely fashion.

    Pekin, IN

  3. ky4cranes says:

    This sighting was posted on the Indiana Bird listserve today.

    My wife and I were on SR52 in Lafayette when we noticed a flock of 20 or so
    Sandhill Cranes flying over. To our surprise and great joy, we saw a Whooping
    Crane with the flock. This was at 8:58 this AM. They were heading south.

    Neal & Kathy
    Lafayette, IN

  4. ky4cranes says:

    Operation Migration ultralight and 11 Whooping Cranes arrive in Union Co.


    Endangered cranes fly into Western Kentucky
    Jacque Day (2010-11-23)
    Window to the World, Wind of Wisdom photo MARSHALL COUNTY, KY. (wkms) –
    Eleven endangered whooping cranes have arrived in Western Kentucky on an
    ultralight-guided migration from Wisconsin to Florida. They landed Tuesday in
    Union County. Operation Migration’s Liz Condie is one of ten people traveling
    with the cranes. She says Marshall County is their next scheduled stop, perhaps
    Wednesday, weather permitting.

    “Weather, of course, is both our bugaboo and our blessing. When we have great
    weather, we can fly. When we don’t have appropriate weather, we’re stuck on the
    ground waiting for that time to come.”

    These whooping cranes are among fewer than a hundred in eastern North America.
    The guided migration is part of an effort by Operation Migration, supported by
    the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure the survival of the species. They
    fly early in the morning, and Condie says people can come to pre-established
    viewing sites to watch the flights.

    See the Operation Migration website for more information on their journey. A
    list of viewing locations is available here.

    © Copyright 2010, wkms

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