U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service | Southeast Region News Release
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Sandhill Crane Migration Study Reaches Halfway Point


October 26, 2000


Chuck Underwood Cell: 904/910-6254

Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (404) 679-7291

The flock of sandhill cranes being led by ultralight aircraft from
Wisconsin to Florida reached the midpoint of their journey today, having traveled 624 miles since leaving Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on October 3. After fifteen stopover points, the entourage of twelve cranes, four aircraft, seven vehicles and twelve biologists, pilots and ground crew flew further south into Fentress County, Tennessee.

"The weather has slowed us up a bit." said Chuck Underwood of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). "Morning fog delays our takeoff time and warmer air temperatures tire the birds more quickly."

Except for a mechanical problem early on, weather has been the only limiting factor in the group's progress toward reaching Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, Florida. Originally expected to take 32 days, the trip is now estimated to take approximately two more weeks.

"We had excellent flying weather from Wisconsin all the way through central Indiana," said Bill Lishman of Operation Migration, Inc. another member of WCEP. "Despite delays these last few days, the trip is going very well. And we could have blue skies and a nice tailwind tomorrow!"

If the migration study is successful and the sandhill cranes complete the journey to Florida and return on their own to Wisconsin in the spring of 2001, the same training procedure and route could be used with whooping crane chicks as part of the second phase of the study. If all goes as planned and necessary approvals are obtained from the Flyway Councils, States and other involved agencies, the study may eventually lead to the re-establishment of a migratory population of whooping cranes in the eastern United States. Whooping cranes are endangered and currently found in the wild only in the western United States and central Florida. Captive-reared whooping crane chicks from the International Crane Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, also part of WCEP, were used to start non-migratory flock in Florida.

WCEP, also including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, was formed in October 1999 to coordinate the ultralight migration study and address issues regarding recovery of the whooping crane. For more information on the project, its partners and regular migration updates, visit the WCEP website at http://bringbackthecranes.fws.gov.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.

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Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2000 News Releases

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