Midwest Region


June 14, 2011                 

Contact: Joan Garland, 608-381-1262

For more information on the project and its partners, visit the WCEP website at:

New Release Sites for “Class of 2011” Whooping Cranes

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) is pleased to announce that new release sites have been chosen for this year’s whooping crane reintroduction efforts. This will be the 11th group of endangered whooping cranes to take part in a project conducted by WCEP, a coalition of public and private organizations that is reintroducing a migratory flock of whooping cranes in eastern North America, part of their historic range.  Thanks to WCEP’s efforts, there are now over 100 wild cranes in this population.

The White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake and Marquette Counties, Wis. will be home to this year’s cohort of young whooping cranes that follow ultralight aircraft on their first migration south.  

“It is exciting to have a state property used as a release site for the first time,” said Rebecca Schroeder, section chief of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Bureau of Endangered Resources. “This project, like many other success stories in the endangered species arena, cannot succeed without strong public/private participation exemplified by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.”

By the end of June, the young whooping cranes will arrive from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md.  A field team from Operation Migration will spend the summer conditioning the chicks to follow ultralight aircraft.  This fall, Operation Migration will guide the young birds on their first southward migration to the Gulf coast of Florida, the cranes’ winter home.

An additional group of chicks will be migrating south as part of WCEP’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project.  Biologists from the International Crane Foundation rear whooping crane chicks that are released in the fall in the company of older cranes, from whom the young birds learn the migration route.  The DAR cranes will likely be released on the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Dodge County, Wis. early this fall.  Permits are still being processed for this release location.  

For the past ten years the ultralight-led and DAR whooping cranes have been released on the Necedah NWR.  Many of these cranes have reached breeding age and have hatched chicks on the refuge.  Three wild-hatched whooping crane chicks have fledged and migrated in past years, while four chicks have hatched so far this year.  This level of nest success is, however, not yet enough to sustain the population.  As part of WCEP’s experimentation with improving reproduction in this flock, new locations are being chosen for releasing birds.  These sites are based on what biologists have learned from cranes released at Necedah NWR.

Most of the whooping cranes released in previous years spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.  Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.

WCEP founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, Inc., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.

To report whooping crane sightings, visit the WCEP whooping crane observation webpage at:




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Last updated: June 15, 2016