2023 Whooping Crane fall migration in full swing

Migration Underway

whooping crane migration
Whooping cranes near Saskatchewan. Photo by Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen ©2021

Migration of the only natural wild population of whooping cranes is in full swing. The Whooping Crane migration from Wood Buffalo to Aransas NWR is about 2,500 miles in length and can take as many as 50 days to complete. The flock is currently migrating through Saskatchewan, Nebraska, North Dakota and other states along the Central Flyway over the next several weeks. The Wildlife Fish and Game and Parks agencies along the flyway encourage the public to report any whooping crane sightings.

If you should observe a whooping crane as they migrate along the Central Flyway, please report them to the proper agencies. We have compiled a list of agencies and contact information below.

If you need help with identification, please click on our Whooper Identification page.

Canadian reports

Any sightings of Whooping Cranes in Canada:
Whooping Crane Hotline is 306-975-5595. That will get you to Wildlife Biologist John Conkin. Leave a detailed message for a callback.

Montana reports

Allison Begley
MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT  59620
abegley@mt.gov
(406) 444-3370

Jim Hansen
MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
2300 Lake Elmo Drive
Billings, MT  59105
jihansen@mt.gov
(406) 247-2957

North Dakota

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, (701-848-2466)
Audubon, (701-442-5474)
National wildlife refuges
North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, (701-328-6300) or to local game wardens

South Dakota

Eileen Dowd Stukel: Eileen.dowdstukel@state.sd.us

Casey Heimerl: Casey.heimerl@state.sd.us

Natalie Gates: Natalie_Gates@fws.gov

Jessica Dowler: Jessica_Dowler@fws.gov

Nebraska

Nebraska Game and Parks (402-471-0641)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (308-379-5562)
The Crane Trust’s Whooper Watch hotline (888-399-2824)
Emails may be submitted to joel.jorgensen@nebraska.gov
Report Online, go to outdoornebraska.gov.

Kansas

Jason Wagner
jason.wagner@ks.gov
(620-793-3066)

Ed Miller
ed.miller@ks.gov
(620-331-6820)

Whooping Crane sightings at or near Quivira NWR should be reported to:
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
620-486-2393
They can also be reported to this email:  quivira@fws.gov

Oklahoma

Sightings can be logged online here

Matt Fullerton
Endangered Species Biologist
(580-571-5820)

Mark Howery
Wildlife Diversity Biologist
(405-990-7259)

Texas

Texas Whooper Watch also has a project in I-Naturalist that is now fully functional. You can find it here. You can report sightings directly in I-Naturalist via your Smart Phone. This allows you to easily provide photo verification and your location.

If you are not a smart phone app user, you can still report via email: whoopingcranes@tpwd.state.tx.us or phone: (512-389-999). Please note that our primary interest is in reports from outside the core wintering range.

Keep your distance and why reporting is important

Should you see a whooping crane during migration, please do not get close or disturb it. Keep your distance and make a note of date, time, location, and what the whooping crane is doing. If the whooping crane is wearing bands or a transmitter, please note the color(s) and what leg(s) the bands are on.

whooping crane migration
Whooping cranes near Saskatchewan. Photo by Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen ©2021

You may wonder why the wild life agencies are asking for these sightings to be reported. The reports are very helpful in gathering data and information on when and where the whooping cranes stopover, what type of habitat they are choosing, and how many there are.

With just over 500 wild whooping cranes migrating along the Central Flyway, odds are low of seeing a wild whooping crane. However, FOTWW hopes that someone reading this article will be one of the lucky few. If you are, please report your sighting so that these agencies and other conservation groups, including FOTWW can continue helping these magnificent cranes.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

fall migration
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org
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Four plead guilty in death of 4 whooping cranes

whooping cranes
Credit: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

In November of 2021, near Tom Steed Reservoir, hunters discovered one whooping crane with a shotgun wound. Unfortunately, the crane did not survive. After being notified, game wardens with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) discovered the remains of three more whooping cranes.

Joseph M. Roman, 43, of Altus, Justin M. Wine, 40, of Altus, Chanod M. Campbell, 32, of Gould, and Brian Lee Gollihare Jr., 35, of Hollis, were charged August 22, 2023, for the deaths of the four whooping cranes in November 2021. The men were hunting at Tom Steed Reservoir when they killed the four whooping cranes and attempted to hide the birds to cover up their crime.

All four men pleaded guilty and will each have to pay $17,000 in restitution and a $750 fine. Each hunter will also forfeit their shotguns and lose their hunting privileges in all 50 states for the next five years.

The whooping crane is one of the rarest birds in North America and are highly endangered. An FWS report from May 2023, estimates there are less than 600 total whooping cranes in the wild. They are protected under the Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts.

To read more details about this case, go to 4 men plead guilty.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

fall migration
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org
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Estimated 536 Whooping Cranes Wintered in Texas in 2022-2023

Wintering Whooping Cranes Update
A newly arrived family group on the Aransas Wildlife Refuge Photo by Kevin Sims © 2017

Every year endangered whooping cranes migrate 2,500 miles from their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding habitats, where they spend the winter. Once they have arrived, wildlife biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) survey the birds by air and analyze population trends.

Preliminary data analysis of aerial surveys of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population conducted in January 2023 indicated 536 whooping cranes, including 88 juveniles, in the primary survey area (approximately 160,125 acres) centered on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The last survey from winter 2021-2022 estimated 543 whooping cranes, indicating the population has remained stable over the last two years.

An additional 14 birds were recorded outside the primary survey area during the survey, based on data from Texas Whooper Watch, eBird reports, iNaturalist reports, a whooping crane GPS tracking study, and aerial surveys conducted in the secondary survey areas. This marks the sixth year that the population has topped the 500 mark, although a survey was not conducted during winter 2020-2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America and are highly endangered. Cranes have been documented to live more than 30 years in the wild. Adults generally reach reproductive age at four or five years, and then lay two eggs, usually rearing only one chick.

Due to extensive conservation efforts of federal, state and private landowners, whooping crane populations have increased significantly. When the bird was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only 50 of the birds existed – with 43 wintering at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and seven in captivity. The long-term annual population growth rate for whooping cranes has averaged 4.34 percent.

Biologists plan to conduct the next survey in January 2024.

To view or download the report, visit our website. More information about the survey and whooping cranes can also be found on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge website or by calling the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Contact Station at: 361-349-1181.

This announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior is celebrating the ESA’s importance in preventing imperiled species extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

Every year endangered whooping cranes migrate 2,500 miles from their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding habitats, where they spend the winter. Once they have arrived, wildlife biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) survey the birds by air and analyze population trends.

Preliminary data analysis of aerial surveys of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population conducted in January 2023 indicated 536 whooping cranes, including 88 juveniles, in the primary survey area (approximately 160,125 acres) centered on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The last survey from winter 2021-2022 estimated 543 whooping cranes, indicating the population has remained stable over the last two years.

An additional 14 birds were recorded outside the primary survey area during the survey, based on data from Texas Whooper Watch, eBird reports, iNaturalist reports, a whooping crane GPS tracking study, and aerial surveys conducted in the secondary survey areas. This marks the sixth year that the population has topped the 500 mark, although a survey was not conducted during winter 2020-2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America and are highly endangered. Cranes have been documented to live more than 30 years in the wild. Adults generally reach reproductive age at four or five years, and then lay two eggs, usually rearing only one chick.

Due to extensive conservation efforts of federal, state and private landowners, whooping crane populations have increased significantly. When the bird was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only 50 of the birds existed – with 43 wintering at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and seven in captivity. The long-term annual population growth rate for whooping cranes has averaged 4.34 percent.

Biologists plan to conduct the next survey in January 2024.

To view or download the report, visit our website. More information about the survey and whooping cranes can also be found on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge website or by calling the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Contact Station at: 361-349-1181.

This announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior is celebrating the ESA’s importance in preventing imperiled species extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

fall migration
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org
Share

2022 Whooping Crane fall migration underway

Migration Underway

whooping crane migration
Whooping cranes near Saskatchewan. Photo by Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen ©2021

Migration of the only natural wild population of whooping cranes is underway. The Whooping Crane migration from Wood Buffalo to Aransas NWR is about 2,500 miles in length and can take as many as 50 days to complete. The flock is expected to migrate through Saskatchewan, Nebraska, North Dakota and other states along the Central Flyway over the next several weeks. The Wildlife Fish and Game and Parks agencies along the flyway encourage the public to report any whooping crane sightings.

If you should observe a whooping crane as they migrate along the Central Flyway, please report them to the proper agencies. We have compiled a list of agencies and contact information below. If you need help with identification, please click on our Whooper Identification page.

Canadian reports

Any sightings of Whooping Cranes in Canada:
Whooping Crane Hotline is 306-975-5595. That will get you to Wildlife Biologist John Conkin. Leave a detailed message for a callback.

Montana reports

Allison Begley
MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT  59620
abegley@mt.gov
(406) 444-3370

Jim Hansen
MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
2300 Lake Elmo Drive
Billings, MT  59105
jihansen@mt.gov
(406) 247-2957

North Dakota

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, (701-848-2466)
Audubon, (701-442-5474)
National wildlife refuges
North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, (701-328-6300) or to local game wardens

South Dakota

Eileen Dowd Stukel: Eileen.dowdstukel@state.sd.us

Casey Heimerl: Casey.heimerl@state.sd.us

Natalie Gates: Natalie_Gates@fws.gov

Jessica Dowler: Jessica_Dowler@fws.gov

Nebraska

Nebraska Game and Parks (402-471-0641)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (308-379-5562)
The Crane Trust’s Whooper Watch hotline (888-399-2824)
Emails may be submitted to joel.jorgensen@nebraska.gov

Kansas

Jason Wagner
jason.wagner@ks.gov
(620-793-3066)

Ed Miller
ed.miller@ks.gov
(620-331-6820)

Whooping Crane sightings at or near Quivira NWR should be reported to:
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
620-486-2393
They can also be reported to this email:  quivira@fws.gov

Oklahoma

Sightings can be logged online here

Matt Fullerton
Endangered Species Biologist
(580-571-5820)

Mark Howery
Wildlife Diversity Biologist
(405-990-7259)

Texas

Texas Whooper Watch also has a project in I-Naturalist that is now fully functional. You can find it here. You can report sightings directly in I-Naturalist via your Smart Phone. This allows you to easily provide photo verification and your location.

If you are not a smart phone app user, you can still report via email: whoopingcranes@tpwd.state.tx.us or phone: (512-389-999). Please note that our primary interest is in reports from outside the core wintering range.

Do not disturb and why reporting is important

Should you see a whooping crane during migration, please do not get close or disturb it. Keep your distance and make a note of date, time, location, and what the whooping crane is doing. If the whooping crane is wearing bands or a transmitter, please note the color(s) and what leg(s) the bands are on.

whooping crane migration
Whooping cranes near Saskatchewan. Photo by Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen ©2021

You may wonder why the wild life agencies are asking for these sightings to be reported. The reports are very helpful in gathering data and information on when and where the whooping cranes stopover, what type of habitat they are choosing, and how many there are.

With just over 500 wild whooping cranes migrating along the Central Flyway, odds are low of seeing a wild whooping crane. However, FOTWW hopes that someone reading this article will be one of the lucky few. If you are, please report your sighting so that these agencies and other conservation groups, including FOTWW can continue helping these magnificent cranes.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

fall migration
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org
Share