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Whooping Crane

Bringing Back the Whoopers

Whooper spending the winter in Florida. Photo copyright Operation Migration

Young whooper spending the winter in Florida.
Photo: © Operation Migration.

Because there was only one small population of whooping cranes left in the wild, people realized that any single event, such as a disease outbreak or natural disaster (like a hurricane), could wipe out all of the whooping cranes forever. Biologists decided that it was important to have additional crane populations established throughout the country. That way, if something happened to the cranes in one area, the cranes living in another area would still survive. Biologists began breeding whooping cranes in captivity and, in 1993, began releasing cranes into the wild in Florida. Without having any experienced cranes to teach them how, these cranes never learned to migrate. Today, this Florida non-migratory population is made up of about 37 cranes.

Juvenile whooping cranes in their pen at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge.

Juvenile whooping cranes in their pen at
the Necedah Wildlife Refuge.

Beginning in 2001, another population of whooping cranes was reintroduced. This time, biologists wanted to see if whooping cranes could be taught to migrate. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), a group of government agencies and private organizations which Wisconsin DNR is a part of, joined together in an effort to create an eastern migratory population of whooping cranes. Cranes chicks hatched from captive bred cranes are brought to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge here in Wisconsin where they prepare for the migration down to Florida or other wetlands in the southeastern United States.

After spending the winter months in the warm, sunny south, the whooping cranes make the return migration north on their own. This population of whooping cranes that travels from Wisconsin to the southeastern United States and back is known as the eastern migratory population.


Continue Reading about the Whooping Crane and:
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