Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents are looking for leads regarding an endangered whooping crane that was found shot in Vermilion Parish.
The crane was found just south of Zaunbrecher Road and north of Gueydan on Nov. 2 with an apparent bullet wound to her upper left leg. The bird was transported to the LSU Vet School where she was euthanized on Nov. 3. A necropsy result received on Jan. 8 confirmed that the crane was shot in the leg.
Up to $10,000 is being offered by various groups for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal killing of this whooping crane. LDWF's Operation Game Thief program and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation are each offering a reward of $1,000; The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering up to $5,000; and the department secured $3,000 from anonymous donors.
“Anytime we lose one of these cranes it sets us back in our efforts to restore the whooping crane population to its historic levels in Louisiana,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “These cranes were once native birds to Louisiana and the department would like to see them thrive again in the future with a sustainable population.”
Julia Breaux, Louisiana state director for The HSUS, said: “Killing a whooping crane is a serious crime. We are grateful to LDWF Enforcement Division agents for their critical work to stop the poaching of these birds, which undermines the agency's efforts to restore and protect whooping cranes in Louisiana. We urge anyone with information to step forward so the offender may be brought to justice.”
Anyone with information regarding this illegal killing should call the Louisiana Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-442-2511 or use LDWF's tip411 program. To use the tip411 program, residents can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the “LADWF Tips” iPhone and Android app from the Apple App Store or Google Play free of charge. The hotline and the tip411 are monitored 24 hours a day. Upon request, informants can remain anonymous.
LDWF has released 64 whooping cranes since 2011 and are currently tracking 40 whooping cranes. The crane in this case had been released in January of 2014 and represents the sixth whooping crane found shot since the birds were released.
The re-introduced whooping cranes came from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and they were placed in the coastal marsh of Vermilion Parish within LDWF's White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA). This re-introduced population marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.
LDWF is working cooperatively with the USFWS, USGS, the International Crane Foundation and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to bring the species back to the state. This non-migratory flock of whooping cranes is designated as a non-essential, experimental population but is protected under state law, the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Whooping cranes, the most endangered of all of the world's crane species, were first added to the federal status of an endangered species on March 11, 1967.
Historically, both resident and migratory populations of whooping cranes were present in Louisiana through the early 1940s. Whooping cranes inhabited the marshes and ridges of the state's southwest Chenier Coastal Plain, as well as the uplands of prairie terrace habitat to the north. Within this area, whooping cranes used three major habitats: tall grass prairie, freshwater marsh, and brackish/salt marsh. The Louisiana crane population was not able to withstand the pressure of human encroachment, primarily the conversion of nesting habitat to agricultural acreage, as well as hunting and specimen collection, which also occurred across North America. The last bird in southwest Louisiana was removed to a sanctuary in 1950.