Endangered Species
Midwest Region



Map of Region 3 Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan

Reintroduction of a Migratory Flock of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern United States

Whooping crane observation reporting form icon.Reintroduction of whooping cranes to the eastern U.S. began in 2000. The purpose of the reintroduction is to establish a population of whooping cranes that breed in Wisconsin and migrate to the southeast for the winter.


Pair of whooping cranes at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Pair of whooping cranes at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a group of non-profit organizations and government agencies is conducting the reintroduction project. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is one member of the Partnership.


Project components:

• hatching and rearing captive-bred whooping cranes at USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


• training young whooping cranes to follow ultralight aircraft and then leading the young cranes on their first migration flight to Florida - Operation Migration, Inc.


• tracking the wild whooping cranes that were released during previous years - International Crane Foundation


The Endangered Species Act Process that Established the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project

To reintroduce whooping cranes to eastern North America, we (the Service) formally proposed establishing a Nonessential Experimental Population by publishing the proposal in the Federal Register. The reintroduction proposal was identified as the preferred alternative in a corresponding Environmental Assessment.  The Federal Register publication of the proposal and Notice of Availability of the Environmental Assessment opened a public comment period. After the comment period closed, we reviewed and analyzed all the comments that were received, then prepared a final rule based on that analysis. The Final Rule establishing the Nonessential Experimental Population was published in the Federal Register on June 26, 2001.  Links to the Final Rule and Environmental Assessment are below.


The Final Rule designates a whooping crane Nonessential Experimental Population within a 20-state area in the eastern U.S. We believe the Nonessential Experimental Population status will adequately protect this whooping crane population, while still allowing the presence of the cranes to be compatible with routine human activities in the proposed reintroduction area.


Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern United States - Final Rule (pdf file - 15 pages; 178KB)


Final Environmental Assessment:  Proposed Reintroduction of a Migratory Flock of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern United States


Map of Nonessential Experimental Population Area


Whooping Crane Reintroduction: Questions and Answers about the Final Rule and Environmental Assessment


Additional information

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership - Partners working to reintroduce Whooping Cranes to the Eastern United States along with information about reintroduction activities, crane biology, and the history of whooping cranes in North America. This site has detailed and current information about the whooping crane reintroduction project.


Regulatory Information Whooping Crane (USFWS Endangered Species Website)


Operation Migration, Inc.: daily updates during spring and summer training for the young whooping cranes and

during the fall migration to Florida.


International Crane Foundation: updates from the team of biologist who track the whooping cranes that have been reintroduced since 2001.


Wisconsin DNR Whooping Crane Site


Wisconsin Whooping Crane Management Plan



Midwest Endangered Species Home


Last updated: April 24, 2015