First the bad news…
Sadly our whooping crane numbers decreased by one last week when female L11-14 was discovered severely injured and had to be euthanized. We would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the Acadia Animal Medical Center in Rayne, Louisiana for assisting us with this bird.
With the loss of L11-14, the maximum size of the Louisiana non-migratory population currently stands at 38 cranes (17 males and 21 females) with 26 birds in Louisiana and 6 in Texas. An additional six have not been recently reported, however half of those birds have nonfunctional transmitters and we are unable to track them. During my time working on the eastern migratory population of whooping cranes in Wisconsin I can remember a number of birds that would disappear for months at a time and then would reappear again later. Given this, we remain hopeful that our missing birds are still alive and well and will turn up eventually!
Now that that bad news is out of the way, let’s move on to some exciting news!
We had last received data from male L3-14’s transmitter on 24 June in Liberty County, Texas and he was last seen at this location on 3 June. For over two months we received no new data and searches of the area both by air and ground resulted in nothing. Given that his transmitter had only been deployed for six months, the chances that the battery had failed were very slim. Late last week we got an exciting surprise when we received some NEW information for this bird! Data showed that he had been in Iberia Parish, Louisiana and moved to White Lake property the following day. We headed out as soon as possible to get a visual and found him with female L8-14, whose transmitter has also not been transmitting for the past month.
L3-14, L4-14, L9-14 and L11-14 are all cranes that were transferred to the Louisiana reintroduction project from the International Crane Foundation (ICF) where they had been originally slated to be released in Wisconsin through the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) method. Because of low production and survival of captive hatched cranes in 2014, these four birds did not meet the minimum number ICF felt they needed for the DAR project and transferred them to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland where they were incorporated into the flock of cranes already heading to Louisiana.
With the reappearance of L3-14 and the death of L11-14, only three of these former DAR cranes potentially remain in the Louisiana flock. Unfortunately male L4-14 has not been observed since 3 June when he was seen with L3-14 in Liberty Co, Texas and his satellite transmitter stopped functioning shortly after that. His status is unknown at this time, but we are keeping our fingers crossed! Female L9-14 had been associating with L11-14 up until her injury and is still alive and well.
For information on the International Crane Foundation’s Direct Autumn Release project visit https://www.savingcranes.org/into-the-wild/
1 - Thank you to the Acadia Animal Medical Center in Rayne, Louisiana for their help with injured female L11-14
2 - Female L8-14 (left) and male L3-14 (right) walk down a farm road in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana
3 - Female L9-14 in an agricultural field in southern Louisiana
Update written by Eva Szyszkoski
First the bad news…