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Loss of Whooping Cranes at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge After Storms Hit Central Florida


February 2, 2007


John Christian, USFWS, 612-810-6955 (cell)

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) regretfully announces the loss of the 18 juvenile whooping cranes at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. The cranes died as a result of the storms that swept through central Florida during the evening and early morning of February 1 and 2.

We are in the initial stages of determining the cause of death of the 18 whooping cranes, which comprised the ultralight-led “Class of 2006” and arrived at the Chassahowitzka NWR in mid January. Following standard protocol, WCEP personnel checked on the cranes the evening of February 1. Due to the magnitude of the storm and the location of the pensite, personnel were unable to safely check on the cranes until this afternoon, at which time the birds were discovered dead in their enclosure.

While this is a setback for the whooping crane reintroduction project, WCEP has faced challenges in the past and we plan to move forward with our effort to return this highly imperiled species to its historic range in eastern North America.

“My heart is aching both for the young birds we lost and for the dedicated people who devote so much of themselves to this project, only to see the cranes’ lives end in this devastating manner. These birds were the start of a new generation of life for the species, but we will recover and continue our work,” said John Christian, co-chair of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. “Our thoughts also go out to those in central Florida who suffered personal losses as a result of these storms.”

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership 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.


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