North American Crane Working Group


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Copyright © 2018 North American Crane Working Group. Used by permission.

Proceedings may include articles not presented at Workshop.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recognizes 6 migratory populations of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) in the United States, 4 of which occur in or west of the Rocky Mountains. Traditionally the Lower Colorado River Valley Population (LCRVP; greater sandhill crane [G. c. tabida]) was thought to be distributed across the Imperial (California) and Lower Colorado River (Arizona) Valleys, southward into Mexico via the Colorado River delta in winter and northeastern Nevada (Elko and White Pine Counties) during summer. Conservation and management concern exists over known distribution based on winter and summer surveys because discrepancies exist between the number of individuals counted on winter and summer termini. In 2014 the USFWS initiated a mark-recapture program on the LCRVP to aid in the development of long-term management of this least abundant greater sandhill crane population. The objective of this paper is to update the known distribution of the LCRVP from greater sandhill cranes by using platform transmitter terminals (PTTs). We captured 44 individual greater sandhill cranes and equipped 22 with PTTs on the wintering and summering grounds in the Imperial and Lower Colorado River Valleys and west-central Idaho, 2014-2015. Our updated distribution map from 18 of 22 PTT-tagged individuals identified several new summer locations extending north and west into west-central Idaho and numerous new migratory locations extending east into Utah. We also confirmed winter locations on the Gila River southwest of Phoenix, Arizona. The extent of the distribution of the LCRVP extends farther north and east than previously expected and, most importantly, overlaps with areas commonly affiliated with the Central Valley and Rocky Mountain Populations in the Intermountain West.