RED RIVER PARISH, LA — Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials are looking for leads regarding a whooping crane that was found shot to death in Red River Parish.
The whooping crane was found and recovered from the bank of the Red River about two miles northwest of Loggy Bayou on April 16. After a necropsy of the crane, it was determined that the bird was shot with a 6.5mm/.264 caliber projectile.
Investigators believe the bird was shot between April 10 and 14. The whooping crane was a part of LDWF's whooping crane reintroduction program and was fitted with a GPS tracking device. The last tracking point of the crane moving was on April 10 near where she was eventually found dead on April 16. The last tracking point received was on April 14 at the location she was found.
This whooping crane was released in Louisiana on March 14, 2011.
LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the USFWS are each offering up to $1,000 in rewards for a total of up to $3,000 in rewards for any information about this illegal shooting that leads to an arrest. To report any information regarding this whooping crane shooting, please call 1-800-442-2511.
“Anytime we lose one of these cranes it sets us back in our efforts to restore the whooping crane population back to its historic levels in Louisiana,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “These were once native birds to Louisiana and the department would like to see these cranes thrive again in the future with a sustainable population.”
USFWS Office of Law Enforcement for the Southeast Region Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago said, "The shooting of this whooping crane is an insult to all law abiding hunters. We ask the public to please share any information that will lead us to the shooter.”
LDWF has released 40 whooping cranes since 2011 and currently have 25 whooping cranes they are tracking. This is the third whooping crane that has been found shot with the previous two having been shot in Jefferson Davis Parish in October of 2011.
The re-introduced whooping cranes came from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and they were placed in the coastal marsh of Vermilion Parish within LDWF’s White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA). This re-introduced population marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.
LDWF is working cooperatively with the USFWS, USGS, the International Crane Foundation and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to bring the species back to the state. This non-migratory flock of whooping cranes is designated as a non-essential, experimental population but is protected under state law, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Whooping cranes, the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, were first added to the federal status of an endangered species on March 11, 1967.
Historically, both a resident and migratory population of whooping cranes were present in Louisiana through the early 1940s. Whooping cranes inhabited the marshes and ridges of the state’s southwest Chenier Coastal Plain, as well as the uplands of prairie terrace habitat to the north. Within this area, whooping cranes used three major habitats: tall grass prairie, freshwater marsh, and brackish/salt marsh. The Louisiana crane population was not able to withstand the pressure of human encroachment, primarily the conversion of nesting habitat to agricultural acreage, as well as hunting and specimen collection, which also occurred across North America. The last bird in southwest Louisiana was removed to a sanctuary in 1950.
The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Multiple efforts are underway to bring this bird further along its path to recovery. This includes increasing populations in the wild, ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States, and establishing a resident population in Louisiana.
There are about 600 whooping cranes left in the world with 421 of those cranes living in the wild.