North American Crane Working Group


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Ellis, David H., James C. Lewis, George F. Gee, and Dwight G. Smith. "Population Recovery of the Whooping Crane With Emphasis on Reintroduction Efforts: Past and Future.", In: Stahlecker D. W., ed. 1992. Proceedings of the Sixth North American Crane Workshop, Oct. 3-5, 1991, Regina, Sask. (Grand Island, NE.: North American Crane Working Group, 1992), 142-50.


Conference co-sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Saskatchewan Parks and Renewable Resources Department, and the Whooping Crane Conservation Association, Canadian Council. Proceedings used by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began building a captive whooping crane (Grus americana) colony at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (patuxent), Maryland, in 1966. From 1976 to 1984, 73 eggs from this colony and 216 eggs from Wood Buffalo National Park (Wood Buffalo), Canada, nests were placed in sandhill crane (G. canadensis) nests at Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Grays Lake), Idaho, the site of the first whooping crane reintroduction attempt. Although 84 chicks fledged from the 289 eggs, the egg transfer program has been discontinued because of inordinately high mortality (only ca. 13 birds remain in the wild in 1991) and lack of breeding in survivors. In recent decades new methods have emerged for introducing captive-produced offspring to the wild. Surrogate studies with sandhill cranes, particularly the endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes (G. c. pulla), have shown that young cranes, raised either by captive, conspecific foster parents, or by costumed humans and in close association with live cranes and lifelike crane taxidermic dummies, have high post-release survival rates. These techniques will likely be used in future Whooping crane reintroduction programs. Current recovery objectives for the Whooping crane include expansion of the 2 captive colonies, establishment of a third captive colony in Canada, and reintroduction of 2 additional wild populations. The Kissimmee Prairie in central Florida has been selected for the next release experiment. Evaluation of this site began in 1984, and risk assessment is expected to begin in 1992 with the transfer and monitoring of a group of captivereared, juvenile whooping cranes. These "tests of the environment" will, if results are favorable, be followed by a full-scale reintroduction effort of at least 20 birds/year beginning in 1994 or 1995.