Twelve juvenile whooping cranes were released into the wild Wednesday (Dec. 6) at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge near Grand Chenier as part of an ongoing effort to protect the species from extinction. These 12 cranes join 11 juvenile whooping cranes, which were released on Nov. 9 on the nearby White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WLWCA) in Vermilion Parish.
The 12 whooping cranes were released into a holding pen at Rockefeller on Nov. 14 for observation as they acclimated to their new home then were released Wednesday.
The 23 juvenile cranes are part of an experimental population that now numbers 72 in the Louisiana wild being monitored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).
Support of partners including Chevron, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon Nature Institute, U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, International Crane Foundation and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation have allowed LDWF to expand its effort in Louisiana.
Of the 12 cranes, seven were reared at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, two were raised at Calgary Zoo in Canada and three were hatched from eggs collected from the wild in Wisconsin and reared at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans.
Since 2011, Chevron has invested in LDWF’s Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project. In addition to Chevron’s financial contributions their employees have also given volunteer hours.
The Louisiana flock was developed in 2011 when 10 whooping cranes from the U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Facility in Maryland were released to WLWCA to develop the non-migratory flock. This marked a significant conservation milestone with the first wild whooping cranes in Louisiana since 1950. In 2016, the first chick hatched in the wild in Louisiana since 1939, a significant sign of recovery for the species.
Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report the sighting to LDWF (http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/webform/whooping-crane-reporting-form). Whooping cranes are large-bodied, white birds with a red head and black facial markings along. Birds measure a height of five feet and a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet that makes them very distinctive. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips, a fully extended neck, and legs which extend well beyond the tail.
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. To use the tip411 program, citizens can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the “LADWF Tips” iPhone app from the Apple iTunes store free of charge. Citizen Observer, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender.