Juvenile whooping cranes released at White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area.

With assistance from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation (LWFF), Audubon Nature Institute and the Dallas Zoo, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) added four new whooping cranes to its experimental population Sunday (Nov. 12) at LDWF’s White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WLWCA) in Vermilion Parish. 

Three of the juvenile cranes were hatched and reared at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans, part of the Audubon Nature Institute.  The fourth crane was transferred as an egg to Dallas from the International Crane Foundation and was the first ever to be reared at the Dallas Zoo’s offsite breeding facility, the Whooping Crane Center of Texas, before being moved this fall to Audubon, and then to WLWCA.

LDWF and the Audubon Nature Institute have been longtime leaders in whooping crane conservation in Louisiana and continue to expand their partnership with the goal of establishing a self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the state.

Whooping cranes are large-bodied, white birds with a red head and black facial markings. They measure a height of five feet and have a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet that makes them very distinctive. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips and a fully extended neck and legs, which extend well beyond the tail.

“It is always a great day when we can continue to augment our strong whooping crane population,’’ LDWF Secretary Rob Shadoin said. “Our partnership with Audubon Nature Institute, and now the Dallas Zoo, is key to our ongoing reintroduction program. We thank them and our other partners as we continue to bring back this magnificent bird.’’

"We are proud to work with our partners on this exciting project to reintroduce whooping cranes in the state," said Richard Dunn, Assistant Curator of Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center. "Since 2017, we have sent 47 birds for release including 26 that were hatched at our facility. Every bird raised and released is one more step toward creating a sustainable population of these amazing birds in Louisiana."

“This release is a monumental conservation win for the Dallas Zoo,” said Sprina Liu, Dall Zoo’s Senior Curator of Birds and Ectotherms. “We’ve been working toward this moment since 2017 when our team created the vision for the Whooping Crane Center of Texas with the goal of helping reintroduce whooping cranes to the wild. It is an honor to know we’ve played a role in giving this juvenile crane his chance to join the wild population through this collaboration with LDWF and Audubon Nature Institute.”

With the release of these new juvenile cranes from the protected portion of the release pen located at WLWCA, the Louisiana population is now 85 cranes. They had disappeared entirely from the state in the 1950s as well as from much of their former range across North America.

The Louisiana flock began in 2011 when 10 whooping cranes from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland were released at White Lake WCA to develop the non-migratory flock. This marked a significant conservation milestone with the first wild whooping cranes back in Louisiana since 1950.
Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report the sighting to LDWF (https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/report-a-whooping-crane-sighting-or-violation ).

For more information about the project please visit LDWF’s website: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/subhome/whooping-crane and social media pages: https://www.facebook.com/lawhoopingcranes/ and https://www.instagram.com/lawhoopingcranes.

Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving whooping cranes is advised to call the LDWF’s Enforcement Division at 1-800-442-2511 or use the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions. To use the tip411 program, citizens can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the "LADWF Tips" iPhone app from the Apple iTunes store free of charge.

Citizen Observer, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender. 

For photos, video and interviews from the release, go to https://ldwf.canto.com/v/WhoopingCranesRelease2023