Open Hunting Discussion – Whooping Crane Shot – Reward

Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) is providing you with an online discussion about the death of a whooping crane and what various interest believe about the situation.  The following discussion appears on Texas Hunting Forum – In The Field web page (see link at bottom of page). We appreciate permission from Texas Hunting Forum to post this on FOTWW’s web page. The discussion follows: 

Originally Posted By: huntwest-                                                               900x481_Flying-skills.jpg

27,500.00 for a bird! It is bad one got shot but that is ridiculous.


Originally Posted By: jeffbird- 

The county judge of Aransas County has testified under oath that the Whooping Cranes and refuge generate millions a year in tax revenue to Aransas County and the refuge is critical to the health of the bay and economy dependent on it which is worth tens of millions a year and hundreds of millions in property value.

So, no it is not a ridiculous amount in comparison.

If the Whooping Cranes were not there, the refuge would not be there. It would be just another stretch of coast with chemical plants, shopping strips, and some weekend homes and a bay comparable in recreation, hunting, fishing and seafood quality to Lavaca or Nueces Bay.

Given that the “hunter” is hiding, expect to see a vigorous prosecution if he is caught rather than him stepping up and owning what probably was an honest mistake. With the money coming to the table, will be interesting to see if one of his friends turns him out or he cracks from worrying about whether his friends will turn him in.

Originally Posted By: BOBO the Clown-

While it’s sad and a bad deal that someone found the need to kill an endangered bird… The whooping crane has no bearing on the Aransas Wildlife refuge by itself. The refuge was created by Roosevelt in 1937 as wintering grounds for ALL types of Migratory waterfowl. The whooping crane wasn’t put on the endangered list until 1968. If the whoopers where gone tomorrow it would be sad and bad deal but the refuge would live on.

That’s like saying the refuge was created for alligators and it should be closed now since gators where removed from the list in 1987.

a private group actually tried to sue state of TX over the death of 23 birds in 2008-2009 for issuing river water permits that they claimed caused the starvation of those birds.

It’s a tricky situation when you start putting birds before humans.

Aransas county isn’t support by the Whooping cranes. It’s supported by humans that hunt and fish there and those that pay propertery taxes there. That would include me on all three accounts.

Sad and bad deal that one of our own may have killed an endangered bird. I hope they fess up, and take thier punishment


Originally Posted By: jeffbird-


Respectfully, there are some significant errors in that post. I’ll leave it at saying my knowledge of the subject matter of your post is substantial, and I have the luxury of not guessing or speculating. The “bird” in my handle comes from my involvement in bird conservation including substantial involvement in some aspects of the subject matter.

First, the Endangered Species Act did not exist in the 1930’s. At that time and still today, Whooping Cranes fell within the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, through an agreement in 1916 known as a “convention” and adopted into law in 1918 in the US. The MBTA was, (and still is) an international treaty ratified between the United States, Mexico, and at that time Great Britain as the governing body for Canada. The MBTA still provides obligations of the three countries to protect birds that migrate between the countries and it is the basis for the hunting seasons and bag limits for migratory birds such as ducks, geese, and Sandhill Cranes. This act is still in effect today and prohibits the hunting, killing, injuring, or “take” of all migratory birds including Whooping Cranes, except those specifically authorized for hunting as game birds. This is why shooting small migratory birds such as warblers, orioles, and others is a federal offense in addition to a state offense, as it violates the international agreement between the governments of Canada, the US, and Mexico. Even if the ESA was repealed, Whooping Cranes are still protected by the MBTA and shooting one still would be a federal criminal offense.

The ESA came into existence in its first form in October 1966, known as the Endangered Species Preservation Act. The first list of protected species known as the “Class of ’67” included the Whooping Crane. The new act carried forward the same framework, definitions, and regulatory framework of the MBTA, but extended it to other species.

As a note of history, the creation and funding of Aransas NWR were done through executive orders of President Franklin Roosevelt, who visited the area in 1937 for vacation and fishing. When I was young in the ’60’s and ’70’s, there was a tarpon scale on the wall of the Tarpon Inn in Port Aransas from a fish he caught.

The MBTA included the regulation of migratory game birds such as ducks, geese, coots, and gallinules – and also Cranes, both Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, which were legally hunted before then. In 1937 the year of President Roosevelt’s visit for vacation, the MBTA closed hunting of Whooping Cranes under the international treaty. In 1938, the Aransas Refuge was purchased with funds allocated to protection of the migratory species covered by the act. The Aransas Refuge was specifically created and managed for the benefit of the Cranes. The other migratory birds, not just waterfowl, were and are incidental beneficiaries, but the Whooping Cranes were the driving force for the creation of the refuge. Ever since, the Aransas NWR has been managed for Whooping Cranes as its priority, everything else is secondary on management goals.

With respect to the case, over 300 different individuals, groups, businesses, and governmental entities were plaintiffs bringing the suit. Among the group were Aransas County, the Aransas County Navigation District, the City of Rockport, the City of Fulton, the Republican Party of Aransas County, the Democratic Party of Aransas County, fishing guides, hotel/motel owners, commercial seafood producers, and businesses dependent on tourism related to the Cranes and the health of the bay. The reason they cared was because the Whooping Cranes were dying because the bay ecosystem was collapsing, and they depend on it for their own economic survival.

Your impression of “putting birds before people” is actually more of putting people and some large industrial users upriver over the interests of the people who depend on the health of the bay for their livelihoods.

The County Judge of Aransas County testified on behalf of Aransas County that the Cranes and protection of the habitat upon which they depend are the underpinning of the economy of Aransas County. He testified that the threats posed by choking off of the water supply to feed the habitat upon which the Cranes depended posed an “existential threat” to the viability of the economy of the county.

The ecosystem which the Cranes rely upon is the same one which provides fish for recreation as well as for the commercial seafood industry. Commercial fishing guides were among the most ardent supporters of the case because they recognize that what is good for the Cranes is good for their business. If the Cranes die because the bay ecosystem dies upon which they rely, then all activities which rely on the same ecosystem will perish as well.

The challenges facing the Whooping Cranes here in Texas are a warning like the canary in the coal mine. Whether any politician has the fortitude to stand up and say it publicly, we are at the limits of the carrying capacity of the land/water in this state right now. Every single drop of water in every single lake and river is committed to someone, somehow. Many rivers now are primarily filled with treated waste water. The Trinity River downriver from Dallas is essentially 100% treated wastewater, which is used, treated again, and passed on down river again. All of our bay systems are under extreme stress. There are huge economic interests dependent on these bay systems for all manner of business, tourism, recreation, seafood production, and businesses that support those.

Not that it matters one whit, but to me, conservation should be non-partisan. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon did more to protect wildlife and the ecosystems upon which they exist than most other presidents added together. For those of a religious mind, if God created this, should we not respect and honor his creation?

Link to Texas Hunting Forum >>>

***** 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. logo


Rewards Offered For Information on Death of Whooping Crane in Aransas County, TX

by Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) will pay a reward not to exceed $10,000 to anyone who provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of any individuals who are responsible for the death of a Whooping Crane believed to have occurred during December 2014 in Aransas County, Texas. The partially decomposed body of the Whooping Crane was recovered by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPDW) game wardens in Aransas County, Texas on Sunday, January 4, 2015. The dead crane was found near a duck blind located in the Aransas Bay system close to Sand Lake. A local hunting guide originally discovered the crane and contacted Game Wardens.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department areWhooper-single-wadeing-hr_076-021-300x215 continuing to seek information about the dead whooping crane.

The Service is also offering a reward in the amount of $2,500 and TPWD is contributing $1,000 for information about the death of the crane. According to the Service, several other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), are also offering up reward money for this effort.

The reward will be issued if the death of the whooping crane is determined to be a criminal act and the information provided leads to the criminal conviction of the person(s) responsible.

Necropsy results show that the whooping crane may have been handled after death.

Anyone with information about the whooping crane’s death is urged to come forward. Information can be provided to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Houston Office of Law Enforcement at (281) 876-1520, or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). Callers may remain anonymous.

Whooping cranes are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  Penalties for harming or killing a crane can range up to a $100,000 fine and/or one year in federal prison.

Whooping cranes almost became extinct with only 16 remaining in the 1940s. Through concerted recovery efforts there are now an estimated 304 cranes in the population that winters in Texas. Standing about 5 feet tall, the whooping crane is the tallest flying bird in North America.

The purpose of the $10,000 reward is to encourage the public to share information they might have about criminal activities involving Whooping Cranes. Federal, State, Provincial, and other public law enforcement personnel, and criminal accomplices who turn “states” evidence to avoid prosecution, shall not be eligible for this reward. If more than one informant is key to solving a specific case, the reward will be equally divided between the informants.

Friends of the Wild Whoopers will continue to provide rewards for killing of whooping cranes in the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock in accordance with the goals in our mission statement. We invite individuals and other conservation organizations to join with us to establish a reward fund. All donor participants will be acknowledged unless they request to be anonymous. Unfortunately FOTWW’s bank account is very limited and we ask you to do your part.

Please contribute to our “Reward Fund” today by donating or joining  Friends of the Wild Whoopers. Click here.

You may also click on the “Donate” button below..

 ***** 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. logo



Supreme Court could hear whooping crane case

San Antonio Express-News

By Scott Huddleston

January 2, 2015 Updated: January 2, 2015 10:34pm

FOTWW - Whooper eating crab San Antonio Press

Photo: Associated Press

A senior U.S. district judge in 2013 found that the TCEQ “proximately caused” the deaths of at least 23 whooping cranes.

A federal court ruling in favor of the state in the deaths of endangered whooping cranes that migrate from Canada to Texas for the winter could soon be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Aransas Project, a nonprofit environmental group that won its case in a federal district court in Corpus Christi in 2013 but had it reversed last year, now has until mid-March to file an appeal with the nation’s highest court. Jim Blackburn, a Houston environmental lawyer and the group’s lead counsel, said a recent 11-4 split among judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and a dissenting opinion written by a former San Antonio judge bode well for the likelihood that the Supreme Court will hear his appeal.

To read the entire article, click here: San Antonio News

 ***** 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. logo

Private Lands Important to Whooping Cranes Wintering On Texas Coast

by Felipe Chavez-Ramirez, PhD, Director, Conservation Programs, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

Whooping Cranes are Rare Birds

Whooping Cranes are a highly endangered species and is one of the rarest birds on the planet.   Currently the population numbers about 300 individuals, however, that population has shown a slow but steady increase since 1941 when only 16 individuals remained. Whooping cranes are migratory, spending the winter on the Texas coast and breeding in the Northwest Territories of Canada in Wood Buffalo National Park. The original wild population maintains winter territories in salt marshes in and around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. As the Whooping Crane population has increased they have expanded their winter range so that today, only about half of the winter range is within these protected areas of Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuges.

Whooping Crane Recovery Team Identifies Limiting Factor

Whooping cranes often use habitat on private lands in the general area of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Whooping cranes often use habitat on private lands in the general area of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

As members of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, we have identified winter habitat as the limiting factor to increasing the population of this wild, migratory species. In addition, a multi-organization, multi-agency, bi-national Conservation Action Plan highlights that a plan to ensure protection of all current and future potential Whooping Crane wintering habitats a high priority.  Since more than half of the Whooping Crane population winters on private lands – and in the future the percentage is likely to increase, finding mechanism to ensure the integrity of those lands as Whooping Crane habitat is a high priority. A recent evaluation conducted in conjunction with the International Crane Foundation and Harte Research Institute, shows that potential high quality habitat along the coast in Aransas, San Antonio, and Matagorda Bay systems will be a smaller proportion of potential territories within protected areas in the future. As little as 26% of all potential suitable winter habitat for Whooping Cranes will be within a protected area in the mentioned bay systems.

Reintroduced Populations Have Not Succeeded To-date

The importance of protecting actual and potential wild Whooping Crane wintering grounds has taken greater significance in recent years as attempts to establish reintroduced populations have not succeeded in establishing self- sustaining populations in other areas. Under the conditions outlined in the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan for potential down listing is that if no self-sustaining reintroduced populations have been established then at least 250 breeding pairs (1,000 individuals) should be in the wild population. This means that we need to ensure that at least there is sufficient acres to support 250 breeding pairs on the Texas coasts.

How Can Whooping Cranes on private lands survive?

There are potential conservation issues that must be considered when such a large proportion of the Whooping Crane population will be spending the winter on non-protected lands. Human activity on private lands is greater, generally unrestricted, and may pose actual or potential threats to wintering Whooping Cranes. Whooping Cranes on private lands may be exposed to direct and detrimental threats.  For example, disturbance factors associated with roads, boating, and hunting. In the past 3 years there have been at least 10 direct shootings and killings of Whooping Cranes while on their wintering grounds, in migration, and within the reintroduced populations. While direct killing was considered a serious problem in the past it was not considered to be a conservation issue at present until recently. Indirect impacts are present that may affect the availability of potential wintering habitat as many areas along the Texas coast are prime areas for urban developments, for example. So we must keep trying to understand and find ways to ensure that Whooping Cranes on private lands can survive in the future.

Many Groups Involved

Many groups and organizations are interested in the conservation and protection of wintering Whooping Crane habitat. At present we collaborate on different projects with The Bi-National Whooping Crane Recovery Team, The International Crane Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and others.

Figure Legend – Mapping of potential Whooping Crane habitat in and around Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuges shows that only about 27% of potential wintering habitat is within protected area boundaries, while 73% is on private lands (from Smith et al. 2014).


**** Friends of the Wild Whoopers wholeheartedly endorses this important article by Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez. We strongly believe that there must be renewed, robust focus on the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population of Whooping Cranes. Our call for renewed focus on this original population is in no way is intended to denigrate other Whooping Crane projects. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population is the only self-sustaining population on the planet. All the other worthy Whooping Crane projects have originated from the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population. We simply must pay more attention to this most viable population that has continued to increase in numbers since the 1940s. Wild Whooping Cranes have proven that they can take care of themselves if they have suitable habitat. Habitat is the key.

Chester McConnell, President
Friends of the Wild Whoopers

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