EMP Whooping Crane Update

October 1, 2018

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month the remaining wild-hatched chicks have fledged. 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 101 (45 F, 50 M, 6 U). This now includes fledged wild-hatched chicks and the family group released at Horicon NWR. As of 1 October, at least 80 Whooping Cranes are in Wisconsin, 3 in Michigan, possibly 3 in Illinois, and 1 in Minnesota. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month or two. See map below.


As of 1 October, five wild-hatched chicks are still alive, all of which have fledged. A sixth chick fledged but died during September. Chicks in bold are currently alive. We had some miscommunication about mortalities so there is a correction since the last update.

W1_18 (U) is still in Juneau Co with its parents and has fledged.

W3_18 (F) is still with her parents in Adams Co and has fledged.

W5_18 (U) hatched to parents W3_10 and 8_04 in Juneau Co. We had found a transmitter from W5_18 with feathers attached, around the same time the parents disappeared. We could not confirm, but suspected W5_18 had died. Surprisingly, during September W3_10 and 8_04 showed up again with a fledged chick! So W5_18 is still alive, has fledged, and has been banded.

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

W7_18 and W8_18 hatched to parents 9-03 and 3-04 in Juneau Co. We had a mix-up on a mortality report, and believed W10_18 was dead, but it was actually W7_18 whose carcass was collected in August.

W9_18 hatched to parents 14-08 and 24-08 in Juneau Co. We have seen 24_08 alone with the chick for most of July and August, suspecting 14_08 has died. During September we saw 24_08 with male 13_02 without the chick. On 15 September, the carcass of W9_18 was collected. W9_18 had fledged before its death.

W10_18 (U) hatched to parents 4-08 and 23-10 in Juneau Co. We believed W10_18 was dead due to a mix-up in a mortality report, but W10-18 is actually alive, was banded, and has fledged. 

2018 Releases

16_11 (M), 18_12 (F), 73_18 (F), and 74_18 (M) were all released at Horicon NWR on 25 August. On 24 September, the carcass of 18_12 (Hemlock) was collected and sent to the National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy. 16_11, 73_18, and 74_18 are together at Horicon NWR.

Whooping cranes 16-11 & 18-12 (Hemlock) with their two chicks (73-18 & 74-18) were released at Horicon NWR in late August. Sadly, Hemlock’s remains were found a month later.

Two Parent-Reared cranes; 76_18 (F) and 77_18 (M) will be released in Wisconsin in early October. 

2017 Wild-hatched chicks

W3_17 (F) is still in Adams Co, WI, and was last seen with 3_11 and 7_11.

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

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort

19_17 (M) and 25_17 (M) have returned to WI and are currently in Polk Co.

28_17 (M) is currently in Sauk Co, WI.

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

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

38_17 (F) is still in Dodge Co, WI 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) is still with two other adults 30_16 (M) and 11_15 (M) in Waushara Co.

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 still unknown.


The carcass of 18_12 (Hemlock) was collected on 24 Sept in Dodge Co, WI. It did not appear to be predated and was shipped to the National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy.

The carcass of 39_16 was collected on 25 Sept in Adams Co, WI. He had not been seen since 8 August and was likely dead for a while. Cause of death could not be determined.

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  1. Cheryl N. October 9, 2018 6:09 pm

    Thank you for the report!

  2. Richard P Brooks October 3, 2018 2:52 pm

    Thank you for the update. A mix of good and bad news. Mortality from any cause is a fact of life. Update seems to affirm the need for more releases to help the EMP reach a self sustaining flock. Is this still a goal of the USFWS recovery team?

  3. Barb October 2, 2018 3:36 pm

    Hello Heather, I don’t remember the number of the girl(?) who stayed North last winter. Is she still hanging around with the Sandhills. Do you think she will.migrate, an how will she do it since no one taught her the route?

    When will OM post the last monthly number count of Whooping Cranes? When you mentioned that fledglingss were banded, were transmitters also attached?

    Thanks so much.

  4. Patti Lattanzia October 2, 2018 3:09 pm

    Thanks Heather for posting. I do love to hear anything about our cranes. Hugs to you.

  5. Jane Maher October 2, 2018 9:10 am

    Will we continue to be able to see these counts?