A Record 63 Whooping Crane Chicks Fledged on Wood Buffalo

by Friends of the Wild Whoopers admin

Record whooping crane fledging chicks

whooping crane family at Wood Buffalo

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.




Gueydan Man Pleaded Guilty for Illegal Shooting of Whooping Crane

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF)

Release Date: 07/11/2017

A Gueydan man pleaded guilty on July 7 in Federal Court in Lafayette for migratory bird violations that occurred in Vermilion Parish.

Whooping Crane

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries photo

Judge Carol B. Whitehurst of the Western District Court accepted the guilty plea of Lane T. Thibodeaux, 21, for taking a whooping crane for which there is no season, taking migratory game birds out of season, from a moving vehicle and without a Louisiana hunting license, and wanton waste of migratory game birds.  Judge Whitehurst sentenced Thibodeaux to serve 45 days in Federal Prison for each of the five convictions to run concurrently and a $2,500 fine.  He must pay his fine in full within one year or he will have to serve 45 days in Federal Prison for each of the five convictions to run consecutively.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) enforcement agents began investigating a whooping crane that was found in a field just north of Gueydan off of Zaunbrecher Rd. with a gunshot wound in its left leg on Nov. 4, 2014.  The crane was transported to the LSU Veterinary School where it had to be euthanized because of its gunshot injury.

Through the course of the investigation agents were able to ascertain information from confidential informants that told them Thibodeaux was the person that shot the whooping crane.  Agents were able to obtain a search warrant for Thibodeaux’s phone and then collect videos and photos showing Thibodeaux shooting migratory game birds from a vehicle off of a public road near the area where the whooping crane was found.  The phone also contained information of Thibodeaux being involved in illegal narcotic activity, which was turned over to the Vermilion Parish Narcotics Task Force.

During the investigation agents also learned that Thibodeaux threatened the informants to not give any information to LDWF agents about the whooping crane he shot.  Agents arrested Thibodeaux on charges of felony witness intimidation on March 4, 2015 and those charges are still pending at this time.

The crane in this case had been released in January of 2014.  LDWF is working cooperatively with the 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 but is protected under state law, the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The confidential informants will split a reward for their information that led to the arrest and conviction of Thibodeaux.  The reward money consisted of $1,000 each from LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation; $5,000 from The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust; and $3,000 from anonymous donors.

The lead LDWF investigative agent for this case was Senior Agent Derek Logan with assistance from Lt. Beau Robertson and Sgt. David Sanford.  The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and PC Recovery in Lafayette assisted with collecting the data from the seized cell phones.  The Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office also assisted with the execution of warrants.


***** 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.