DAR Whooping Crane Chicks Moved to Horicon NWR


Hatched at ICF for release this fall, the DAR Whooping Crane chicks were introduced to their new home at
Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin earlier this week. View more photos from the move.

Media Contact: Joan Garland, ICF Outreach Coordinator, 608-381-1262

Nine Whooping Crane chicks arrived Tuesday, September 3 at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Dodge County, Wis.  The cranes are part of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private organizations that is reintroducing this highly imperiled species in eastern North America, part of its historic range.  There are now 100 Whooping Cranes in the wild in eastern North America thanks to WCEP’s efforts.

The DAR Whooping Crane chicks, ranging in age from 12-14 weeks old, were hatched and raised by costumed biologists at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wis. While the birds are housed at Horicon NWR, they will remain under the watchful eye and supervision of costumed ICF biologists. In early-mid October the cranes will be released on the refuge in the company of older cranes.  The young DAR whooping cranes learn the migration route south by following these older birds.

ICF staff prepare the chicks for their move to Horicon.

“We are excited to be working with our partners on this project for the third year and hope for another successful release,” said Steve Lenz, Project Leader for the Horicon NWR / Leopold Wetland Management District Complex.

In addition to the nine DAR birds, eight Whooping Crane chicks are currently being conditioned to follow ultralight aircraft by WCEP partner Operation Migration at the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake and Marquette Counties, Wis.

Whooping Cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 600 birds in existence, approximately 445 of them in the wild. Aside from the WCEP population, the only other migratory population of Whooping Cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters at Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast.  A non-migratory flock of approximately 20 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region, and an additional 25 non-migratory cranes live in southern Louisiana.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a Whooping Crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle any closer than 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.  Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph Whooping Cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, Inc., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.

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