The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is asking for the public’s assistance, after two whooping cranes where shot. The endangered species reportedly only has 600 cranes in existence -sadly one of the birds, a female was killed. The male whooping crane is reportedly in critical condition, officials are looking to track down the events leading to the shooting.
The removal of possibly two of these ethereal and endangered birds have angered wildlife groups. Officials in Louisiana are scouring the area to determine the whereabouts of the assailant. The whooping cranes were part of a state funded program to protect the species. In the last few years, groups of whooping cranes have been released into the wild in hopes of breeding to rebuild the staggering population. Sadly, out of the 50 cranes released into the wild, only 32 have survived.
Officials know hunters are eligible to start hunting snow geese, but state fiercely there is no way any hunter could conflict the two birds. The whooping crane stands at an impressive five feet tall compared to the much smaller size of the snow goose. Louisiana wildlife officials removed the female carcass from the scene of the shooting, and transported the male immediately to a veterinary hospital in Baton Rouge. Officials believe the male bird may be saved, but is suffering from a severely injured wing.
The secretary of LDWF, Robert Barham was dismayed at the news of the shooting. He stated any time a whooping crane is lost, “it sets us back in our efforts to restore” what Barham calls, the “once native birds to Louisiana.” The organization has been working steadily to slowly gain traction within the whooping crane population back to the state.
This is not the first set-back for the whooping cranes population. Just mid-last month, a pair of whooping cranes were shot to death in Kentucky. The shooting in Hopkins County stunned wildlife enthusiasts and enraged citizens who have come to support Operation Migration. It is within these similar operations nationally, wildlife organizations are slowly releasing whooping cranes back into the wild – unfortunately the deaths of these birds should not be the end result. The two birds shot to death in Kentucky did not come from an accidental shooting. Officials, investigating the case, stated it appears to be “thrill seekers” who took advantage of a shot and killed the birds. Just last April, Louisiana endured another setback when a whooping crane was shot dead near Red River, that $15,000 reward remains in place for the capture of the shooter.
The shooting of the Louisiana birds have upset officials, especially members of the LDWF. Robert Love of the department states the organization was very excited about releasing the young birds into the wild. They were too young to produce eggs but connected through, what is called, a mating bond, in 2013. It was this year, officials were looking forward to the pair breeding. Love called the shooting “sickening” and stated a reward will be in place to catch the criminal.
To understand the distinction of the birds – a whooping crane stands nearly five feet tall, as earlier reported. They have a red cap and gray-black feet. Their bills are long and slender, additionally it is their wingspan that truly marks their species. Extended, the wing span of a whooping crane is more than seven feet. This is a drastic difference compared to the snow geese who have shorter bills, covered all in white and remain lower to the ground.
Louisiana officials are now offering a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the shooter. Whooping cranes, a beautiful and endangered species are not intended for “game” hunting. Officials were grim as they reported a female bird was shot and killed, and a male currently hospitalized in critical condition, who may never be able to fly again.