Adapted From the Operation
Migration Flight Journal
Sept. 7, 2003
Reporter: Heather Ray
Activity: Sad news...
On Aug. 17 and 18, ICF/FWS biologist Richard Urbanek, along
with Sara Zimorski and Lara Fondow, also with the International Crane
Foundation, retrieved three yearling Whooping cranes from eastern
South Dakota. The three females (#203, 207 & 215)
had wandered west after returning to their summer home in Wisconsin in
April with several of their flock mates.
in "Okay" Territory
It is typical for juvenile cranes to wander for a short time after
returning to their northern range, especially unattached females;
Dakota is not listed as one of the twenty possible dispersal States/Provinces
included in the Non-essential
Experimental Plan (NEP). The NEP was published as a federal
rule, and was necessary to carry out this reintroduction. Listed States
and Provinces include the primary flyway States of: Wisconsin, Illinois,
Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida, as well as the neighboring
States, and two Canadian Provinces; Ontario and Manitoba. This means
if any of the WCEP cranes wander into any of these listed areas, they
are considered to be "experimental" and "non-essential"
to the overall Whooping crane picture; however, if they venture outside
of these listed areas, they once again become "endangered,"
and along with this come several considerations. The land they inhabit
becomes endangered species habitat, regardless of what the owner planned
to do with the land is just one consideration.
The NEP ruling is what allows us to dress up in goofy costumes, carry
puppets, and lead these special endangered cranes across the country,
using an aircraft that resembles a flying lawn chair. The NEP ruling
affords these cranes the same protection from hunters they would normally
receive under the Endangered Species Act.
Decision to Capture The Wanderers
it was discovered in early June that the cranes had moved to a South
Dakota marsh, only 7 miles past the state line shared with Minnesota,
the proper authorities were notified and numerous conference calls
The decision was made to leave them alone for awhile to see if they
might return to either Minnesota or Wisconsin on their own. Unfortunately
the hot dry season turned their once marshy area into a dry and cracked
bed, and the girls decided to move on... Farther WEST - to excellent
with an abundance of crayfish. The joint decision was made between
the Central Flyway Council, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish
the Whooping Crane Recovery Team and officials with the Whooping
Crane Eastern Partnership to collect the wandering females and return
the reintroduction site at the Necedah NWR.
Hatching a Plan
A plan was worked out and Richard drove west to set up a temporary
holding pen near the area where the cranes had been roosting. The next
and Lara drove out to join him for the capture attempt, which would
take place on the evening of August 17th. Windway Capitol Corp. had
the use of an aircraft to return the birds to central Wisconsin and
waited for word from the retrieval team. That evening the three donned
costumes, familiar to the cranes, and approached the birds. It became
immediately evident that after almost a year of spent away from the
these cranes hadn't missed them - at all. Eventually, #215 was captured
by hand. The transmitter was replaced, and Lara drove the bird back
an air-conditioned van through the night for release on East Rynerson
Pond, at the Necedah NWR, the next morning. The original transmitter
this bird had become non-functional since July 30th so the decision
was made to replace all three transmitters.
Lara arrived at the refuge in the early morning of the 18th of
August and after a brief exam by Patuxent's Brian Clauss, 215 was
her old stomping grounds. Sara and Richard had stayed in
South Dakota for a second attempt at collecting 203, and the apparent
the group, crane 207.
Eventually, 207 was captured by hand and herded into a nearby temporary
enclosure, where it was hoped that her calls would lure in the timid
wary 203. After some time this is exactly what happened and the two
were placed in individual containers and driven to the airport where
placed in an air-conditioned room to await the arrival of the Windway
aircraft that would fly them and Sara back to Necedah, WI.
The two birds were released later that afternoon on the south end
of East Rynerson Pond. 203's release was unremarkable. Crane 207,
not fly and stumbled when walking—both are significant signs
of capture myopathy. She was therefore transferred to the pen at the
further evaluation by the health team.
The news was not good. The ring-leader and most dominant of the group
of three females continued to show signs of severe capture myopathy
intensive therapy administered by several members of the field team,
under direction of ICF's Dr. Barry Hartup. After continued tube feeding
physical therapy sessions, crane 207 remained alert and responsive,
often biting the hands that fed her. But on the afternoon of August
days after her capture from South Dakota, she would still not willingly
stand although her legs were strong. With heightened concerns over
of tube feeding, and a very poor outlook for her future as a wild crane,
she was transported from Necedah NWR to ICF to be humanely euthanized.
Many thanks are due to the field team, and especially Sara Zimorski,
Lara Fondow, Richard Urbanek and Dr. Barry Hartup for doing
everything possible to rehabilitate 207.
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).