My heart dropped when I read the headline on CNN..."Endangered cranes also victims of Florida storm". Storms that hit Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River, Florida caused all 18 endangered Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) being kept in an enclosure to perish. For the last six years, chicks have been hatched and raised at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin. Their caretakers wear crane costumes to avoid human imprinting. When they're ready to migrate in the fall to Chassahowitzka, an ultralight leads them to their destination. This is a traumatic setback for Operation Migration and Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. Now, especially, is a good time to visit their sites and show them some support.
Update: One bird has been reported to survive, escaping the pen around the time the storm hit. Whooper Happenings is providing updates on their site, and has released a new podcast that sheds more light on this.
Birder's World magazine also has a story on this. It includes interviews with major players on the reintroduction team; explains what happened when and what was lost; and describes the next steps for the project.
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