The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership’s (WCEP) annual two day meeting concluded Thursday. Staff members of WCEP’s nine member organizations attended the meeting in person or joined in electronically. On yesterday’s agenda was the selection of a release site for the ultralight-led Class of 2011.

Of necessity, all options involved crating and transporting the nine cranes by road, and the pros and cons of each of three potential release sites (Florida’s St. Marks and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges, and Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama) were discussed. In the final analysis, it was felt that the pros outweighed the cons of selecting the Wheeler NWR.

Today, OM team members will be putting the wheels in motion to carry out that decision. Arrangements were made late yesterday with Wheeler’s staff for our second travel pen to be erected there on an area of the refuge where two adult pairs of Whooping cranes have been sighted.

We added up the time it would take for the trip to the refuge including the drive in to reach the potential pensite, plus the time to unload and set up the pen, and then the return trip. Even with a very early start it was obvious that we’d be in the heat of the day before we’d be in a position to crate the cranes for the move. (The high today is forecast to be in the mid 60’s) Crating can be stressful for the cranes, so accomplishing that in the cool of the early morning hours to eliminate concerns for overheating is a better option. This means the actual move will take place Saturday morning.

Once the Class of 2011 is at Wheeler NWR, they will be held in the top-netted travel pen until the WCEP team arrives with their permanent bands and they are attached to each crane. After a day or two for the birds to recover from being handled and to adjust to their new leg jewelry, Brooke, who will be staying on site with them, will effect the release.

We will keep you posted…

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