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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

April 2, 1998

Ron Garcia Alamosa WR(719) 589-4021
Terry Sexson - (303) 236-7905 x 429

 

WHOOPING CRANE FATALITY IN SAN LUIS VALLEY OF COLORADO

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that one of five whooping cranes existing in the Rocky Mountain population was found dead on Sunday, March 29 in the San Luis Valley of South Central Colorado. The death of this whooping crane (a.k.a. Patuxent #14) leaves only 4 whooping cranes left in the Rocky Mountain population. Two are remnant cross-fostered birds and 2 are juveniles associated with an ultra-light aircraft experiment currently underway in the Rocky Mountain Area.

According to Rick Schnaderbeck, Assistant Refuge Manager at the Alamosa/Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the bird was found dead on private property approximately 8 miles east of Monte Vista, Colorado. The landowners notified the Colorado Division of Wildlife of the dead crane on their property. The apparent cause of death was a collision with an electrical power transmission line. The carcass was delivered to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has since been forwarded to the National Wildlife Health Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin for necropsy to determine the actual cause of death.

The crane, which is believed to be a 15 year old adult female, was a remnant bird from the 1975-1989 cross-fostering experiment designed to establish a self-sustaining whooping crane population in the Rocky Mountain area. In this experiment whooping crane eggs from both the wild Canada flock and a captive reared flock were transferred into sandhill crane nests located on the Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho. The sandhill cranes hatched the eggs and raised the whooping cranes as their own teaching them the migration route that leads through the San Luis Valley between the wintering grounds along the Rio Grande in Southern/Central New Mexico and their breeding grounds in the Greater Yellowstone Area. This experiment was discontinued in 1989 after the whooping cranes were believed to be improperly sexually imprinted on their sandhill crane foster-parents and were not breeding and because they exhibited an abnormally high mortality rate.


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