It’s EMP Update Time!

Whooping Crane Update – September 4, 2018 

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month another chick has fledged, and we’ve released our first Whooping Cranes of the year. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the Whooping Crane Eastern Migratory Population.

Population Estimate

The current estimated population size is 100 (46 F, 51 M, 3 U). This does not include wild-hatched chicks that have not yet fledged, but does include fledged wild-hatched chicks and the family group released at Horicon NWR. As of 1 September, at least 79 Whooping Cranes are in Wisconsin, 3 in Michigan, possibly 3 in Illinois, and 3 in Minnesota. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month or two. See maps below.


As of 4 September, we have had at least ten chicks hatch in Wisconsin, five of which are still alive, and at least two of which have fledged. Chicks in bold are currently alive.

W1_18 and W2_18 hatched to parents 12-11 and 5-11 in Juneau Co, WI. W1-18 fledged in late July, and is still in Juneau Co.

W3_18 (F) and W4_18 hatched to parents 24-09 and 42-09 in Adams Co, WI. W3-18 is currently alive and with its parents and has been banded. W3-18 fledged sometime in August.

W6_18 is still alive and with its parents 1-04 and 16-07 in Juneau Co, WI. W6-18 has been banded.

W7_18 and W8_18 hatched to parents 9-03 and 3-04 in Juneau Co. W7_18 is still alive.

W9_18 hatched to parents 14-08 and 24-08 in Juneau Co, and is still alive. We have seen 24_08 alone with the chick for most of July and August. W9-18 has been banded.

W10_18 hatched to parents 4-08 and 23-10 in Juneau Co, but died in early August. 

2018 Releases

In 2015, 16_11 (M) nested with a Sandhill Crane at Horicon NWR in Dodge Co, WI. He was captured in spring 2016 and brought to a captive center in Florida, White Oak Conservation, with a captive female, 18_12 (Hemlock). 18_12 was slated to be released with the 2012 DAR cohort at Horicon, but had a health issue that is now resolved. 16_11 and 18_12 paired in captivity, nested in 2018, and laid two eggs which both hatched. On 24 August, Windway Capital Corp. flew the four Whooping Cranes from Florida to Wisconsin. They were all released at Horicon NWR on 25 August near 16_11’s territory.

adults 16-11 and 18-12 with twins 73-18 and 74-18. Photo: International Crane Foundation

As of 4 September, 16_11 (M) and 73_18 (F) are associating and 18_12 (F) and 74_18 (M) are associating. The two groups are not far from each other. Since release they have explored more of the marsh, have roosted in appropriate habitat, and have made it through some severe storms in the area.  

2017 Wild-hatched chicks

W3_17 (F) is still in Adams Co, WI, but is no longer with 39_16.

W7_17 (F) is still alone in Wright Co, MN.

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort

19_17 (M) and 25_17 (M) are still in Scott, Carver, or Hennepin Co, MN.

28_17 (M) was last seen in Marquette Co, WI.

24_17 (M) is in Rock Co, WI.

72_17 (M) is still in Ingham Co, MI.

38_17 (F) is still in Dodge Co, WI, where she was released in the fall. She has met up with 63-15 (M).

39_17 (F) is still in Outagamie Co, WI.

Costume-Reared 2017 Cohort

7_17 (F) is still with 4_14 (M) in Green Lake Co.

3_17 (M) was recently sighted in Green Lake Co, WI with two other adults 30_16 (M) and 11_15 (M).

4_17 (M) and 6_17 (F) are still in Brown Co, WI.

1_17 (M), 2_17 (F), and 8_17 (F) have split up and 1_17 and 2_17 are currently in Winnebago Co, IL. 8_17 was last seen in Sangamon Co, IL, but her whereabouts are now unknown.


The carcass of 71-16 (F) was collected 31 August but she had been dead for a while. She was last seen in late March in the same area. Cause of death is unknown.

18_11 (M), 24_13 (M), 26_09 (F), 10_10 (F), 17_07 (F) have not been seen in over one year, are now assumed to be dead, and have been removed from the population totals above.

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  1. Richard P Brooks September 5, 2018 3:55 pm

    Thank you everyone who has been involved with the EMP and OM. You have been the doers and you did a great job. Now it seems like the deciders have made decisions to insure the eventual failure of this population more like lawyers than biologists without achieving many of the goals. Much has been learned but 100 Cranes spread across 5 states is an unreasonably small population even if 200 slow to reproduce birds have been contributed to this population. OM thank you. People remaining in the WCEP need to wake up or be replaced.

  2. Dick Brooks September 5, 2018 12:23 pm

    Thank you for the update. I am late to this effort but I want to fight for the successs of the EMP. Seven mortalities listed this month. I thought that several others were listed in the past year but not sure. If only nine added this year the policies currently in place will destroy the EMP. My numbers may not be accurate but the USFWS directive that only parent reared Chicks be released when that method is the limiting factor for chicks available makes no sense. This policy needs to be changed.

  3. Sally September 5, 2018 11:16 am

    Thank you for the report. How long wil OM continue to monitor and report? Much thanks to all for your years of work and dedication.

    • Heather Ray September 5, 2018 1:35 pm

      The organization will be shut down at the end of this year and our website will cease to exist shorty thereafter.

  4. ginny eastwood September 5, 2018 8:53 am

    thank you for this info, sure will miss you all. Thanks for the memories.