WOOD BUFFALO – ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATE

As of March 1st, Aransas NWR officials were still waiting for the final report of the necropsy on the second chick carcass they sent to Madison, Wisconsin’s National Wildlife Health Center. Weather was a challenge as they conducted the February aerial surveys, but the census numbers from those flights should be available soon.

As of the end of February, almost 4 inches of rainfall helped to reduced salinity levels in the bays at Aransas; good news for wintering Whooping cranes. In an effort to alleviate the low sources of food for Whoopers, the refuge conducted more prescribed burns with a total of almost 11,000 of the planned 14,000 acres now being burned.

It seems the refuge continues to get questions regarding providing supplemental food for Whooping cranes. In response, the refuge posted this statement…

“At this time, the refuge is concerned about the negative impacts of supplemental feeding. Previous efforts to supplemental feed were not considered successful as only a small portion of the birds actually fed on the shelled corn.

Whooping cranes are territorial and do not naturally gather together to feed. Encouraging them to do so changes their natural behavior; it also creates greater opportunities to transmit diseases, parasites, and makes them more vulnerable to predators.

Furthermore, when left out in warm and moist environments, like coastal marsh areas, corn can grow Aspergillis molds. Aflatoxins, which are produced by the molds, can be lethal to Whooping cranes and other wildlife. Where Whooping cranes may be present, landowners should be aware of the risks that aflatoxins pose. If corn is being used for feeding other wildlife in areas where whooping cranes may be present, we highly recommend purchasing aflatoxin-free corn.”

Read the full summary of the Aransas Refuge report on the website of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association(WCCA).

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