North America - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation



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North America

North America


The once threatened Sandhill Crane has made an inspiring comeback throughout much of its range. However, despite this success, the species continues to be threatened by power line collisions and wetland loss. The Whooping Crane, one of the rarest and most endangered bird species in North America, faces a myriad of similar threats – power line collisions, freshwater diversions, drought, sea-level rise, and illegal shootings.


We are committed to the conservation of the last naturally-occurring Whooping Crane flock that migrates between Canada and coastal Texas, and the reintroduction of additional self-sustaining populations of Whooping Cranes. In addition to this critical work, our North America program includes long-term research on Sandhill Cranes aimed at gaining an even better understanding of crane biology and developing model solutions for crane conservation on agricultural landscapes. Our work includes:


Click on the above image to view our webinar playlist – Ensuring a Future for Our Rarest and Most Abundant Cranes in North America. Whooping Crane photo by John Ford.

Securing sufficient high-quality habitat along the central Texas coast wintering grounds and migratory flyway to support the full recovery of the last naturally occurring population of Whooping Cranes. We are:

  • Identifying and prioritizing Whooping Crane habitat around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and helping to protect land that will accommodate a growing population and habitat changes due to sea-level rise.
  • Assisting with a long-term monitoring program to determine population growth, winter range expansion, territory needs, and wintering Whooping Crane health in cooperation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other partners.
  • Assessing threats along the migration route, identifying management priorities to secure key stopover sites, and sharing recommendations with decision-makers and stakeholders.

Photo by Dave and Liz Smith
Photo by Dave and Liz Smith

Securing sufficient freshwater flows in Texas’ Guadalupe/San Antonio basin to sustain healthy bays and estuaries for Whooping Cranes, other biodiversity, and the coastal economy. We are:

  • Conducting ecological assessments of Whooping Crane health, movements, and food item availability at times of different freshwater inflows and drought conditions, so we understand the cranes’ needs and can improve water management to meet those needs.
  • Exploring market-based solutions to water allocations.
  • Providing leadership and guidance for all basin water users to engage in voluntary water conservation programs that will strengthen watershed stewardship and sustainability.
  • Promoting awareness and citizen action for the conservation of Whooping Cranes, water and wetlands on their coastal Texas wintering grounds through our education and outreach programs.

“The Whooping Crane is a flagship for the sustainability of critical river basins in the central Texas coast and helps represent a new way of thinking about sustainable water management in Texas and throughout the country.”

Read more about our Texas Whooping Crane program.


Establishing two self-sustaining populations of Whooping Cranes in eastern North America. We are:

  • Preparing captive Whooping Cranes for wild release using state-of-the-art techniques for crane husbandry and health care, artificial insemination, egg incubation and chick rearing.
  • Researching and monitoring the success of the Wisconsin-released population and sharing lessons learned for adaptation to additional release projects, such as in Louisiana.

“As part of our commitment to saving Whooping Cranes in the wild, the International Crane Foundation serves as a leader in reintroducing Whooping Cranes in the Eastern United States. Three reintroduced populations include non-migratory flocks in Florida and southern Louisiana, and a third, migratory population in the eastern U.S..”

Read more about Whooping Crane reintroductions.


Reaching people in important crane places with outreach and environmental education that builds citizen pride in Whooping Cranes and encourages people to be guardians for this iconic North American species.

  • Working with communities where Whooping Cranes concentrate to build awareness and pride, to support habitat protection and address threats such as the increasing problem of Whooping Crane shootings.
  • Engaging citizen scientists to report Whooping Crane sightings in new places, and recording and analyzing these data to track and manage the species.
  • Helping the criminal justice system to effectively investigate and prosecute Whooping Crane shootings cases.


Conducting applied research on issues important to the future of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, and developing creative solutions to emerging conservation challenges. We are:

  • Promoting the use of deterrents for those farmers who have experienced crop damage from cranes.
  • Assessing the impacts of hunting on Sandhill Cranes and the illegal shooting of Whooping Cranes and sharing that information with stakeholders and decision-makers.
  • Monitoring impacts of power line and wind turbine development and collaborating with the industry to develop and implement strategies that reduce risks to cranes.
  • Investigating how habitat changes affect crane reproductive success potential.

“We focus on the factors that were key to Sandhill Crane recovery over the past century: restoring and protecting wetlands, reducing pressures on migration and wintering areas, increasing
public awareness about cranes and the wetlands they depend on, and ensuring peaceful coexistence between cranes and farmers.”

Read more about our North America Sandhill Crane program.



Our work in North America is led by the staff of the International Crane Foundation and trusted local partners.


Janet Cunningham
North America Program Assistant


Mark Dumesnil
Grant Officer – North America Program

Andy Gossens

Andy Gossens
Crane Project Manager


Anne Lacy
Senior Manager – North America Programs


Irvin Louque
Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator


Rari Marks
Leiden Conservation Whooping Crane Biologist


Hillary Thompson
North America Program Crane Analyst


Stephanie Schmidt
Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator

Liz Smith

Dr. Liz Smith
North America Program Director


Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
International Whooping Crane Recovery Team
Texas A&M University
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
United States Geological Society
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
University of Wisconsin
Whooping Crane Reintroduction Team


Click on the links below for additional background and in-depth research on our work in North America.

Sandhill Crane Crop Damage
A Sandhill Crane Hunt in Wisconsin?
Studying the effects of sea level rise in coastal Texas
Report a Banded Crane
Whooping Crane Conservation


Join our flock! You can support our critical conservation work in North America by becoming a member. Click here to join today.