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Press Release, USFWS, November 22, 2004

Just Ahead of the Ultralight-led Cranes, Wild Whooping Crane Completes Fall Migration

The first crane of eastern North America’s new migratory flock of wild whooping
cranes has arrived at its winter home in Florida. At the same time, the younger, ultralight-led cranes continued making progress on their first southward migration. The birds are part of an effort by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) to establish a self-sustaining wild, migrating flock of whooping cranes in eastern North America.

Biologists tracking the migrating whoopers found crane #214 from the Class of
2002 at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on November 16. She was
the first of the wild birds bird to reach Florida.

A New Techniqe Starts With Crane #418
The now wild cranes were joined by a new traveling companion—crane #418,
the first young whooper to be conditioned behind the ultralight aircraft but introduced among older birds to learn the migration route. Crane #418 was not able to complete the necessary conditioning to begin the ultralight-led migration on October 10. This preliminary effort in 2004 will help prepare for supplemental releases
in subsequent years. For more information about the supplemental release technique, go to the WCEP website.

One Ultra-crane Dies in South Carolina
The five whooping cranes from the Class of 2003 that spent the summer in
Michigan are also on their way south for their first unassisted fall migration. Four of them made history once again when they detoured through South Carolina, spending some time on Cape Romain NWR, along the Atlantic coast, before heading north into North Carolina. This is the first time whooping cranes have been in South Carolina in more than a century. The remains of one of the four, number 305 [crane #5 from hatch year 2003], were found on Cape Romain NWR on Nov. 16. An investigation into the cause of death is ongoing.

History of the Ultralight-led Migrations
In 2001, project partner Operation Migration’s pilots led the first whooping crane chicks, conditioned to follow their ultralight surrogates south from Necedah NWR to
Chassahowitzka NWR on Florida’s Gulf Coast. In 2002, WCEP biologists and pilots conditioned and guided a second group of juvenile cranes to Chassahowitzka NWR.
In the fall of 2003, WCEP conducted its third ultralight-led migration. Those cranes have begun returning to their summer home in central Wisconsin, and there are now 35 whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America.

CAUTION, PLEASE
WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give
them the respect and distance they need.

  • Do not approach birds on foot within 600 feet.
  • Try to remain in your vehicle.
  • Do not approach in a vehicle within 600 feet or, if on a public road, within 300 feet.
  • 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 whooping cranes.

    The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, an international coalition of public and private groups, is organizing the effort to reintroduce this highly imperilled species in eastern North America, which was a part of its historic range.

 

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