WISCONSIN (WCEP) -- The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) is pleased to announce that this year’s group of birds that will follow ultralight aircraft to Florida has safely arrived in Wisconsin from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD.
Windway Capital provided the aircraft and the pilots to ferry the young cranes from Maryland to Wisconsin. This transfer was the thirtieth such flight that Windway has made with endangered whooping cranes on board their aircraft.
As with last year, the cranes were taken to the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County. This is the third year that this training site has been utilized. The cranes will spend the summer with Operation Migration pilots and field staff getting acclimated, gaining strength, and learning to follow the aircraft. This fall, Operation Migration will guide the young birds on their first southward migration to the Gulf coast of Florida, the cranes’ winter home.
These birds represent a portion of the 13th group of endangered whooping cranes to take part in a project conducted by WCEP, a coalition of public and private organizations that is reintroducing a migratory population of whooping cranes into eastern North America, part of their historic range. An additional batch of chicks will be migrating south as part of WCEP’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project. Biologists from the International Crane Foundation rear whooping crane chicks that are released in the fall in the company of older cranes, from which the young birds learn the migration route. The DAR cranes will be released on the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County, WI early this fall. There are now over 100 wild cranes in the WCEP population, all of which, with the exception of five wild hatched chicks, were released using the above two methods.
Most of the whooping cranes released in previous years spend the summer in central Wisconsin. WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.
WCEP founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration Inc., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.
Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals, and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding, and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations, and corporate sponsors.
If you come across a whooping crane in the wild, please report the sighting at the WCEP whooping crane observation webpage at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane/sightings/sightingform.cfm.