Louisiana’s wild whooping crane population continues to grow as the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and partners work to reestablish a flourishing population to the Bayou State.
Twelve juvenile whooping cranes were received Monday (Nov. 19) at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge near Grand Chenier. It will bring the Louisiana wild population to 75 once the new arrivals are released.
Included in that wild population number are five chicks that were hatched and fledged in southwest Louisiana last spring. The five chicks are the most hatched in a single year since the project began in 2011 and represent a major milestone in the whooping crane reintroduction project.
Of the new arrivals, seven juvenile whooping cranes came from the International Crane Foundation and five cranes hatched and reared at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans, part of the Audubon Nature Institute.
LDWF and Audubon Nature Institute have been longtime leaders in whooping crane conservation in Louisiana and are continuing to expand their partnership with the goal of developing a self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in Louisiana. With that support, LDWF and Audubon are committed to the long-term growth and stability of the whooping crane population to save the species from extinction, supported by generous donors including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Cameron LNG, Coypu Foundation and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation
The 12 whooping cranes were placed into a holding pen at Rockefeller for observation as they acclimate to their new home. They’re expected to be released from the release pen after several weeks.
“With the addition of the 12 cranes along with the five wild hatched chicks, our whooping crane project enjoyed a banner year in 2018,’’ LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet said.
“So many hard-working folks deserve credit for the success as we work to bring back this majestic species that once was abundant in Louisiana,” Montoucet said. “Chevron and our other corporate partners, Audubon and our LDWF biologists, who constantly watch over these birds, are key cogs in this process.”
Montoucet said he appreciates the cooperation of private landowners in southwest Louisiana who have seen cranes take up residence on their land. “We thank them all and look forward to the continued partnership,” he said.
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 began in 2011 when 10 whooping cranes from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Facility in Maryland were released at White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area to develop the non-migratory flock. This marked a significant conservation milestone with the first wild whooping cranes in Louisiana since 1950.
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. 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.
For video, photos and an interview with LDWF biologist Sara Zimorski, go to https://ldwf.cantoflight.com/v/2018WhoopingCraneRelease/landing.