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Feds Okay Whooping Crane Release In Louisiana

February 9, 2011 12:00 AM

Feds OK whooping crane release in La.

Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
 

 

 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A small group of some of the world's rarest birds are set to be released later this month in Louisiana, where the last flock of whooping cranes lived about 60 years ago.

The birds are being flown in crates from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. They were raised there by people in "crane suits," which cover workers faces so the birds will not become accustomed to humans.

The flocked will be released in White Lake in southern Louisiana, where about 1½ acres of wetlands, including an artificial island, have been fenced in for the cranes, said Tom Hess, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and fisheries. The ends of the pen are rounded so the 5-foot-tall birds with the distinctive call won't get hurt.

Then pen is made of welded wire mesh panels, lined with plastic mesh and held together with plastic ties to ensure there's nothing the birds can swallow or injure themselves on. Outside the pen, an electric fence deters predators.

Inside, a 70-foot diameter round pen covered with plastic mesh. People in crane suits will carry the birds' crates into a smaller pen and release them.

After a week or so, crane-suited workers will let the birds into the larger pen. They will be free to fly but, hopefully, coaxed into the pens at night with food.

Crawfish and other avian delicacies will be put on floating platforms that rise and fall with the water.

"We want these birds to roost in the pens at night until they become acclimated to the marsh," Hess said.

The last whooping crane in Louisiana was taken from White Lake to Texas in 1950, and the birds were one of the first animals on the U.S. endangered list.

The federal government approved release of the 10 young whooping cranes Monday. Snowstorms delayed their move earlier year, so officials aren't sure just when they'll be flown in.

"They were scheduled to fly last Tuesday, the first," said Bo Boehringer, spokesman for Louisiana's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "We're being told the rescheduled flight won't be until the 15th. That's weather permitting."

The birds coming to Louisiana include one from an egg laid last year at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species and sent to Patuxent to hatch.

They've been raised outside, so they shouldn't have any trouble coping with the rest of Louisiana's winter, said state wildlife biologist Carrie Salyers.

"They've certainly been given a fair share of winter," she said.


 
 
 
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