10 whooping cranes released into wild in south La.
- Article by: JANET McCONNAUGHEY
- Associated Press
- January 3, 2014 - 1:55 PM
NEW ORLEANS — Ten young whooping cranes have been released into the wild after spending nearly a month at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in south Louisiana.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said the birds released in Gueydan on Thursday will join 23 adult whooping cranes that are being monitored as part of an effort to establish a non-migratory population in the state.
The younger cranes arrived in south Louisiana on Dec. 11 and came from the U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md.
The birds are among the world's largest and rarest and they are protected under state and federal laws. The 600 or so alive today all descended from 15 that lived in coastal Texas in the 1940s.
When fully grown, the graceful cranes will stand nearly five feet tall from their red caps to their grey-black feet and have a wingspan of more than seven feet. They're named for their calls, which can be heard a half-mile away.
The 71,000-acre White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area is in the general area where Louisiana's last wild flock of whooping cranes lived nearly three-quarters of a century ago.
The 23 older birds are among 40 released since February 2011. Only one of the first 10 survived, but other flocks have had much better survival rates.
About 450 whooping cranes live in the wild. About 250 migrate between Texas and Canada; they're the only natural and self-sustaining flock. Another 100 are in a flock taught to migrate between Wisconsin and Florida by following ultralight airplanes. Operation Migration pilots and eight youngsters arrived in Florida on Tuesday, and may leave for their final destination this weekend.
Louisiana's is the second stationary flock that authorities have tried to establish. Fewer than two dozen remain of 289 birds released in central Florida from 1993 to 2006.
So far, those released in Louisiana have wound up in groups of two to seven birds.
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