Endangered Crane Found Dead in Indiana Raises Questions

by Erica Peterson on January 3, 2012

Sandhill crane hunting season continues for another week and a half in Kentucky. But the death of a whooping crane 40 miles north of Louisville has raised concerns that hunters may not be able to distinguish the sandhill crane from its endangered relative.

Joan Garland of the International Crane Foundation says conservation groups are working to restore the whooping crane populations.

“These birds are coming through on migration and they’ll stop in various states all along the migration route, from Indiana down to Florida,” she said. “Sometimes they may just stop for a day or two, sometimes they may be there even longer—up to a couple of weeks—on their migration.”

The bird was found dead as Kentucky’s first sandhill crane hunting season is wrapping up. Garland says the whooping crane had a tracking device on it, and there’s no evidence it was in Kentucky during the hunting season. But she says it’s important for hunters to recognize the differences between the species.

“Whooping cranes are a bright white bird—they’re very, very white,” she said. “And they have black wingtips—very dark black wingtips. Sandhill cranes are a lightish grey color and they do not have the black wingtips.”

Garland says whooping cranes are also considerably larger than sandhill cranes. The two types of birds sometimes fly in flocks together.

It’s a crime to kill or harass whooping cranes, and there’s a reward being offered for information leading to prosecution of those responsible for the bird’s death.

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