Mississippi Sandhill Cranes arrive at refuge - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Mississippi Sandhill Cranes arrive at refuge

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A Mississippi Sandhill Crane shortly after being released into a large holding pen, which will serve as a transition from captivity into the wild (John Snell) A Mississippi Sandhill Crane shortly after being released into a large holding pen, which will serve as a transition from captivity into the wild (John Snell)

Gauthier, Ms. -- On a rainy Tuesday morning, four young birds took what will most likely be the longest trip of their lives.

Staff members from the Audubon Institute Species Survival Center on the west bank delivered the Mississippi Sandhill Cranes to the refuge that bears their name.

The cranes, one of the rarest birds on earth, were driven to the point of extinction 40 years ago through loss of habitat.   By the mid-1970's, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists estimated only about 30-35 of the cranes survived in the wild.

Audubon and another facility in Florida hatch and raise chicks, rearing them through the first, most vulnerable months of life.

Today, biologists estimate about 125 cranes cling to the 20,000 acre refuge and the immediate surrounding area.

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