Newsroom Midwest Region

October 28, 2015

Contact: Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Statement on Vision for Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes

The goal of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is to establish a self-sustaining migratory population of whooping cranes in the eastern United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working within the partnership to reach that goal.

In 2001 WCEP initiated a 10-year experiment to see if ultralight led-migrations could help us in meeting that goal. This is now the 15th year of that 10-year experiment. In those 15 years, the partnership appears to have been successful at reaching the migratory component of our goal using several release methods.

Now that the Eastern Migratory Population is established, the recently released FWS 5-year vision focuses on working toward reaching the self-sustaining aspect of our goal, which has been hindered in the past by low reproductive success. Current captive rearing techniques may not give whooping cranes the characteristics they need to successfully reproduce in the wild.

WCEP has examined various tools over the years to increase reproductive success. An external review of WCEP operations in 2010 recommended reducing artificiality and giving priority to release methods that rely less on exposure to humans. In 2013, the WCEP guidance team amended their existing 5-year strategic plan to reflect these recommendations. Additionally, a “Science Re-boot” workshop, held in spring 2015 with scientists working on wildlife restorations throughout the world, also raised concerns about the artificiality of captive rearing. The Service now believes it is appropriate to focus on rearing and release tools that are less artificial, and which have the greatest potential to increase reproductive success in the population.

As the federal agency responsible for implementing the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses the best available information and expert assessments to help guide our decisions. The Service has shared its 5-year vision with the WCEP partners, and it will be discussed by the partners as WCEP looks ahead to its next 5-year strategic plan. The agency is seeking additional information from our partners to help make a more informed decision about future work aimed at recovering whooping cranes.

We look forward to continuing the discussion as we move toward finalizing plans for the next five years and reaching our shared goal of a self-sustaining migratory population. For more information, including a list of questions and answers about the Service’s 5-year vision for the Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes, go to: