On Wednesday evening at 6:06 PM we released the last Whooping crane from the first cohort of five Parent-Reared birds.
We had the cooperation of two landowners whose property bordered a perfect wetland in Dodge Country.
Target female, 66-15 forages in local fields and roosts in this secluded marsh. If it all works out, she will mentor number 24-17 and teach him the ways of the wild. If that introduction takes a little time, 24-17 is in prefect habitat to safely roost in water.
In the spirit of real partnership, we had representatives there from the International Crane Foundation, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, the Wisconsin Departure of Natural Resources and Operation Migration all helping with the release.
Like many Wisconsin wetlands, this one is surrounded by cattails and there is only one access. We had to carry the crate containing 24-17 over stumps and under tree-falls along a narrow, overgrown dike on the edge of a forest.
We reached a place where we could see the open marsh across a shallow channel and through a thin curtain of tall grass.
It’s almost impossible to predict what a bird will do when it comes out of a crate after an hour and a half drive. It could have walked up the channel to the left or right or flown out in any direction. Instead, it walked out of the crate, straight across the channel and through the grass curtain as if it knew the plan.
Now the first hurdle is cleared, we have to hope the chick and the adult actually meet. Then they must form a bond and stick together until the chick learns how to survive.
Then there is that migration thing…