Whooping cranes need more land for continued growth

The following editorial was published by The Victoria Advocate Editorial Board. Friends of the Wild Whoopers agrees with and endorses the editorial by “The Victoria Advocate”.

Whooping cranes need more land for continued growth

By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 18, 2015 at 4:15 p.m.

For the past 40 years, the Whooping Crane Recovery Program has been successful in rebuilding the world’s only naturally migrating flock that winters in the Crossroads.

This program needs more financial support for its continued growth and success.

On the East Coast, another group has been working, less successfully, to reintroduce the birds. While the birds are learning some survival patterns, they are not reproducing. In fact, the adults are showing no parenting instincts.

It is too early to tell the success of a similar project in Louisiana.

One proposal, among other things, to make the East Coast group successful, is to take eggs from the self-sustaining wild flock and use them in the nests of the re-introduced flock.

That logic is flawed.

If the adult birds are not showing parenting instincts with the captive-laid eggs, the adult cranes will not automatically learn that instinct by nesting on wild eggs.

Instead of using millions of dollars to try to re-introduce a new population into the east coast group, the government and conservation groups need to use that money to purchase more land, so the naturally migrating flock has more room to expand as the flock continues to grow.

The biggest obstacle facing the wild flock is the need for protected coastal marsh habitat in Texas, where the birds spend about seven months of the year. With just more than 300 birds, about half of the population winters on private land.

Setting aside enough land for one pair of the territorial birds could cost as much as $1 million. These birds claim 300 to 500 acres a pair.

Whooping cranes need more land for continued growth Photo by Earl Nottingham, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
An aerial photo of the fringe marshes along Powderhorn Lake. Photo by Earl Nottingham, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The birds are moving north, and some were found on the Powderhorn Ranch in Calhoun County.

The 17,351-acre ranch was purchased last August by the Texas Parks and Wildlife in partnership with The Conservation Fund, the Nature Conservancy and other groups with the assistance of a restoration fund created in the wake of the BP 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

One of the goals of the purchase – that it would become a part of the birds’ winter grounds – has already been met.

More partnerships like this are needed to conserve nature and its wildlife.

Purchasing land to support the wild birds costs about $2,000 an acre. But it’s a one-time cost, versus the annual costs associated with hatching and releasing birds that cannot reproduce on their own.

Experts point out, rightfully so, that the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has a population that has survived on its own.

It would be more cost effective to continue to do the work of the Whooping Crane Recovery Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making every dollar go further to keep the wild population going.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org logo

***** 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.