LDWF Announces Whooping Cranes Return to Louisiana

Release Date: 02/07/2011

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced today that it will be re-introducing the whooping crane to Louisiana later this month. The Department of Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) cleared the way for the crane's return with approval for an experimental population in southwest Louisiana.

Governor Bobby Jindal said, “Adding the whooping crane to our diverse collection of bird species further demonstrates our state’s commitment to restoring and revitalizing our coastal regions. This announcement today is another step forward in growing and enriching our state’s wildlife species and preserving our one-of-a-kind Louisiana wetlands.”

The last record of a whooping crane in Louisiana dates back to 1950, when the last surviving whooping crane was removed from Vermilion Parish property that is now part of LDWF’s White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA). Habitat loss and unrestricted hunting led to population declines nationwide and on the North American continent in the last century. The last bird in southwest Louisiana was removed to a sanctuary in 1950. LDWF in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit plan to release the first group of ten non-migratory whooping cranes at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in February. 

LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said, “LDWF has proven through implementing recovery efforts for species like the American alligator and the brown pelican, our state’s expertise and willingness in implementing a long-term restoration plan for our most delicate wildlife.” 

The proposed designation of a non-migratory flock of whooping cranes for reintroduction to Louisiana was first published in the Federal Register on August 19, 2010. Public comments were received and two public hearings (Gueydan and Baton Rouge) were held to allow public comment. Comments were accepted through October 18, 2010 and were generally found to be supportive of the overall reintroduction effort.

The non-essential, experimental flock coming to Louisiana will carry that designation under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. This designation and its implementing regulation, as announced February 3 in the Federal Register, are developed to be more compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction area. 

Whooping cranes are the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, first added to the list of endangered species on March 11, 1967. Louisiana’s reintroduction is part of a larger ongoing recovery effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners for this highly imperiled species, which was on the verge of extinction in the 1940s and even today has only about 400 individuals in the wild.

The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Like those in the eastern migratory population, it remains vulnerable to extinction from continued loss of habitat or natural or man-made catastrophes. Multiple efforts are underway to reduce this risk and bring this magnificent bird further along its path to recovery. This includes increasing populations in the wild, ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States, and establishing a resident population in Louisiana.

For more information on whooping cranes and the re-introduction of whooping cranes to Louisiana, please visit the LDWF’s website at www.wlf.la.gov or the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov/southeast and the International Crane Foundation at: http://www.savingcranes.org/

For more information contact Bo Boehringer at 225-765-5115 or bboehringer@wlf.la.gov.