Operation Migration has played a lead role in the reintroduction of endangered Whooping cranes into eastern North America . In the 1940s the species was reduced to just 15 birds.
In early 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the aircraft-guided method was too “artificial” and that cranes raised by costumed handlers, missed early learning opportunities. As a result, it was speculated that they did not properly nurture or protect their chicks when they had their own offspring. It was suggested that this inattentiveness was the cause of high pre-fledge mortality at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exercised its authority over the Endangered Species Act and ended the aircraft-guided reintroduction method.
Going Forward… Operation Migration remains committed to the eastern flock. With just over 100 Whooping cranes in the flock, OM will assist with the release of the 2016 Parent Reared crane chicks and track their fall migration. Our staff will monitor nesting birds in the spring to help determine the cause of chick mortality, by documenting the movements and behavior of pairs with chicks. We will use ground observations and, radio telemetry to gather data.
We will also capture cranes for transmitter replacement because as we all know; batteries don’t last forever. We will also stream live video via our CraneCam from the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area beginning in April. As always, we will report Whooping crane news to you in our In The Field blog.