BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Agents with the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries report two whooping cranes that were part of an experimental population in Louisiana were found dead in southeast Texas in Jefferson County on Monday (Jan. 11).
These birds, a male and female, were almost two years old and were part of a group being introduced in an effort to establish a self-sustaining population in Louisiana that now numbers 44.
Although originally released in Louisiana at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area near Gueydan, the two whooping cranes, along with two other birds from Louisiana, had been in southeast Texas for more than eight months. The deaths of the cranes are being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The whooping crane is protected under the federal Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts and by Texas and Louisiana state law.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is working cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to return the species to the state.
"While incredibly frustrating to lose two more birds we will not be discouraged in our efforts to try and recover this endangered species,'' said LDWF biologist Sara Zimorski, who leads the Louisiana whooping crane project.
Whooping cranes are large-bodied, white birds similar to white ibis, white pelicans, and wood storks, all of which must be distinguished from legally-hunted snow geese. However, a red head and black facial markings along with a height of five feet and a wingspan of 7-8 feet make them very distinctive. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips and fully extended neck and legs, which extend well beyond the tail.
Juvenile whooping cranes are primarily white with some cinnamon-brown feathers remaining on their body, primarily on their head and neck. Their wing tips are black like an adult, but they lack the red head.
Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance.
Authorities also say anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving whooping cranes is advised to report that information to LDWF's Enforcement Division by calling 1-800-442-2511 or using the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions.