The following is a Press Release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents have identified two juveniles for their alleged role in the illegal shooting of two whooping cranes in Jefferson Davis Parish.
According to an eyewitness account, two juveniles stopped on Lyons Road in between Mouton and Guidry roads south of Jennings at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 9. The eyewitness said they shot from their truck and killed two whooping cranes.
LDWF agents and biologists were notified yesterday morning, Oct. 10, and retrieved the dead birds, which were a part of LDWF's whooping crane reintroduction program. Agents were able to locate the suspected juveniles Monday night based on information from the eyewitness account.
"Losing two cranes, especially in such a thoughtless manner, is a huge setback in the department's efforts to re-establish a whooping crane population in Louisiana," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "We take this careless crime very seriously."
LDWF received 10 whooping cranes in February of this year from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Research Facility in Laurel, Md., and placed them in the coastal marsh of Vermilion Parish within LDWF's White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA). This re-introduced population, which will be annually supplemented with future cohorts, marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.
LDWF is working cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), USGS, the International Crane Foundation and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to bring the species back to the state. This non-migratory flock of whooping cranes is designated as a non-essential, experimental population and is protected under state law and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"This is a profound setback to the many people and organizations who have worked so hard to bring this magnificent bird back to Louisiana," said Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Whooping cranes, the most endangered of all of the world's crane species, were first added to the federal status of an endangered species on March 11, 1967. The reintroduction at White Lake WCA is part of an ongoing recovery effort coordinated by the USFWS.
Historically, both a resident and migratory population of whooping cranes were present in Louisiana through the early 1940s. Whooping cranes inhabited the marshes and ridges of the state's southwest Chenier Coastal Plain, as well as the uplands of prairie terrace habitat to the north. Within this area, whooping cranes used three major habitats: tall grass prairie, freshwater marsh, and brackish/salt marsh. The Louisiana crane population was not able to withstand the pressure of human encroachment, primarily the conversion of nesting habitat to agricultural acreage, as well as hunting and specimen collection, which also occurred across North America. The last bird in southwest Louisiana was removed to a sanctuary in 1950.
The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Like those in the eastern migratory population, it remains vulnerable to extinction from continued loss of habitat or natural or man-made catastrophes. Multiple efforts are underway to reduce this risk and bring this bird further along its path to recovery. This includes increasing populations in the wild, ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States, and establishing a resident population in Louisiana.