by Friends of the Wild Whoopers admin
Record whooping crane fledging chicks
Two adults and one juvenile whooping crane. Photo: John McKinnon / ©2014 Parks Canada /Wood Buffalo National Park.
Fort Smith, NWT, August 14, 2017 – A record number of 63 whooping crane fledglings were detected by Parks Canada and Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) staff during surveys conducted at and near Wood Buffalo National Park with their parents.
In mid-May 2017, during the nesting survey, Parks Canada and CWS detected a record 98 nests, which was a substantial increase over the previous record of 82 nests in 2014. Then, during the fledgling survey in late July, we detected 63 chicks in total with 4 sets of twins. The previous record was 49 chicks in 2006. Results are preliminary until analysis of data obtained during the nesting and fledgling surveys is completed by CWS in the fall.
The nesting survey is carried out over four days each year in late July. WBNP and CWS staff conduct aerial surveys over sites where nests were detected earlier in the year, to determine which nests successfully produced fledglings.
WBNP and nearby areas provide the last natural nesting habitat for the endangered whooping crane. The birds are hatched in and near WBNP each spring and spend the winter at and near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas before returning to WBNP the following year.
Officials excited with record whooping crane fledging chicks
“This is an exciting development for the Whooping Crane population and we are very pleased.” said Cam Zimmer, superintendent of Wood Buffalo National Park. ”Our cooperative work with the Canadian Wildlife Service, and with partners in the United States, is an important component of our efforts to recover this endangered species. We are proud to celebrate this new conservation milestone during Canada’s 150th year.”
Excellent habitat conditions one reason for increase
Friends of the Wild Whoopers was expecting an excellent fledgling count because of the record number of 98 whooping crane nests found during the May 18-21, 2017 nesting surveys. Parks Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada were elated with the results. Mike Keiser of Park Canada had told us earlier that habitat conditions were excellent with most wetland basins being full. So environmental conditions for a great Whooper chick production were established.
This important success for the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population is incredible. It is the only wild self-sustaining population of Whooping Cranes on earth and has faced many difficulties over the years. This wild population had only 15 members in 1945 and was on the edge of extinction. Unregulated hunting during the 1800s and early 1900s coupled with widespread habitat destruction was the cause of the Whoopers serious decline. Fortunately with legal protection this decline has been reversed as witnessed by their continued increase in numbers during the past approximately 65 years.
51 years of whooping crane surveys at Wood Buffalo
This was the 51st year of annual surveys of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population. The large increase in nests and fledglings chicks from previous years is a result of several things. Very important is the excellent habitat conditions on Wood Buffalo nesting grounds that provided suitable nesting sites for the cranes. The Wood Buffalo staff keeps careful watch over the nesting areas. Importantly, the legal protection by wildlife law enforcement personnel for the past approximate seven decades has been of tremendous benefit. More recently the increase resulted from the arrival at breeding age of the large number of young Whooping Cranes that were produced during the period 2010-2013.
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo wild Whooping Crane population is capable of taking care of itself with two exceptions. These birds cannot protect their habitat nor stop the illegal shooting of members of their population. These endangered birds need man to protect and manage habitat and bring a halt to the illegal shooting.
***** 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.