North American Crane Working Group


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Hartup, B.K., J.N. Niemuth, B. Fitzpatrick, M. Fox, and C. Kelley. Morbidity and mortality of captive whooping cranes at the International Crane Foundation 1976-2008. In: Hartup, Barry K., ed., Proceedings of the Eleventh North American Crane Workshop, Sep 23-27, 2008, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (Baraboo, WI: North American Crane Working Group, 2010), pp. 183-185.


Reproduced by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


Tracking the incidence of morbidity and mortality in captive animal collections helps inform husbandry and preventive medicine programs aimed at improving population health and viability. Carpenter and Derrickson (1982) and Olsen et al. (1997) published summary reports of captive whooping crane (Grus americana) mortality that served to identify key problem areas for the primary breeding flock and potential reintroduction programs involving this endangered species. We expanded on this approach and conducted an initial evaluation of morbidity and mortality factors for whooping cranes at the International Crane Foundation (ICF). The purpose of our study was to identify overrepresented factors and investigate management alternatives to prevent or minimize disease occurrence and mortality, and make recommendations for more effective use of veterinary resources in the future. The medical records of 92 cranes (43 males, 46 females, 3 unknown) were examined for causes of morbidity and mortality from their time of arrival at ICF. Subjects departed the flock due to transfer to other institutions or death. The first brood stock arrived in 1989 from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland, in 3 shipments totaling 22 cranes. From 1990 to 1996, 49 whooping crane eggs collected from wild nests in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), Alberta, Canada, were sent to ICF for captive rearing of hatched chicks. The remainder of the records pertained to individuals accessioned since 1976 that were transferred from other institutions or hatched and retained at ICF for the purpose of captive breeding. Records for all groups were reviewed through 2008. The records of all chicks transferred for reintroduction were not included due to their short time in captivity.