NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A whooping crane hit by a shotgun blast last week in Jefferson Davis Parish is recovering at Louisiana State University after 5½ hours of surgery on its left wing.
Pellets shattered two long bones in the bird’s left wing, veterinary school spokeswoman Ginger Guttner said in an email Tuesday.
“We don’t know at this time whether or not the bird will be able to fly again. We take it a day at a time,” she wrote.
Whooping cranes are among the world’s largest and rarest birds. Only about 600 are alive, all descended from 15 that lived in coastal Texas in the 1940s. They are protected under state and federal laws.
Fifty have been banded, tagged with radio transmitters and released in southwest Louisiana since early 2011 in an attempt to create a flock like those that once lived in the area. The wounded male is among 32 still alive, and is the only survivor of the first group of 10.
Whoever shot him near the town of Roanoke killed his mate. They were the only birds that had formed a mating bond last year, though they were too young to produce eggs.
Biologists believe the birds were shot Thursday. They were found Friday; the male was brought to the veterinary school and underwent surgery Saturday.
Guttner said biologists from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries are helping care for him.
“These cranes are a high stress species, and therefore the rehabilitation process is challenging,” she wrote.
She described the injury as a “comminuted fracture of the humerus and radius.” The humerus is the thick bone extending from the shoulder. The radius is the smaller of two long bones in the next section of the wing.
“The main concern now is to control infection and make sure he eats well,” Guttner wrote.
It will be at least six to eight weeks before any chance of a flight evaluation, “and that is optimistic,” she said. “There is a lot of healing time and rehab ahead.”
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents are investigating after two whooping cranes that were found shot in Jefferson Davis Parish this morning, Feb. 7.
The whooping cranes were found and recovered near the corner of Compton Road and Radio Tower Road just north of Roanoke about five miles north of Interstate 10. Agents found a shot and killed female whooping crane and a shot and injured male whooping crane.
LDWF personnel were able to retrieve the injured male crane and will transport it to LSU for examination. It appears at this time to have an injured wing suffered from the shot. Agents believe that the birds were shot with bird shot sometime yesterday, Feb. 6.
“Anytime we lose one of these cranes it sets us back in our efforts to restore the whooping crane population back to its historic levels in Louisiana,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “These were once native birds to Louisiana and the department would like to see these cranes thrive again in the future with a sustainable population.”
LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program is offering up to a $1,000 reward for any information about this illegal shooting that leads to an arrest. To report any information regarding this whooping crane shooting, please call 1-800-442-2511.
If you were to choose a route through which to move toxic, highly corrosive, sludgy crude oil, would you place it on the same narrow corridor used by one of the world’s most endangered birds? The Canadian energy company TransCanada did and the Obama administration is on the verge of approving that absurd proposal.
If approved by the administration, the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline will move a half million+ barrels daily of Canadian crude 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada to the Texas coast as soon as 2013. TransCanada would like the world to believe that their pipeline is relatively safe, claiming just one predicted spill in the first 7 years. Yet, TransCanada’s existing Keystone Pipeline has experienced 12 spills — in just 12 months of operation.
Despite assurances by pipeline operators, spills continue. The July spill of a much smaller pipeline under the Yellowstone River in Montana released 1,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone. The Keystone XL would be 3 times as large, carrying 600,000 of oil per day. There have been five major pipeline spills in the United States in the last 24 months. Adding nearly 2,000 miles of high-pressure pipeline carrying one of the most corrosive and dirty fuels known to man is a disaster in the making.
That doesn’t sound safe, particularly not for the one of the most highly endangered birds in the world — the Whooping crane. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) calls the Whooping crane one of the most famous symbols of America’s dedication to saving its wild national heritage. Unfortunately for the crane, however, it uses the same 1,700-mile route as the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
Whooping cranes follow the proposed path of the pipeline annually each spring, as they migrate from Texas to their breeding grounds in Canada. Along the way, they depend on the rivers, marshes, wetlands and streams for stopover and feeding habitat. Since the pipeline’s proposed route crosses many of these habitats — including the Platte River in Nebraska, one of the most important feeding and resting locations — miles of these critical stopping points would be at risk of being fouled with sludgy, toxic tar-sands oil every day of the year.
Scientists are deeply concerned about the potential harm to Whooping Cranes. The Society for Conservation Biology — the world’s largest international conservation science society — has recently released a press release sounding the alarm about the cranes. For instance, arecent report found that a major spill on the Platte River could result in 5.9 million gallons of toxic, corrosive tar-sands oil being dumped into the Platte.
A worst-case scenario per their research would result in nearly 8 million gallons of oil being spilled. A catastrophe of this magnitude would almost certainly decimate wildlife and potentially all that remains of this population of whooping cranes — just 74 breeding pairs.
Deepwater Horizon mercilessly demonstrated the near impossible task of cleaning oil from a marsh or wetland. And this oil — tar-sands oil — is much more corrosive, toxic and difficult to clean up. Once coated with sticky oil, the birds would be unable to insulate and regulate their temperatures and could slowly die from hypothermia or acute toxicity. Imagine the brown pelicans in the Gulf but with much thicker oil (and much more endangered birds).
In addition to the grave risk of catastrophic spill, whooping cranes would be put at still further risk by the installation of aerial power lines that would be constructed to power pumping stations on the proposed pipeline route. Collisions with power lines are already the largest known cause of death for migrating Whooping cranes. This proposal would result in hundreds more miles of aerial lines throughout the birds’ migrating path, compounding the likelihood of disaster. These aerial lines won’t be built without the pipeline and the pipeline won’t be built without them.
This pipeline simply cannot be built without putting the whooping crane and as many as 10 other endangered species at great and unnecessary peril. Despite that, the State department recently published its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) asserting that there would be no significant impacts along the proposed corridor. Alarmingly, the State Department declined to include any analysis from the soon to be completed USFWS biological opinion regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline. In doing so, the State Department has completely ignored the impacts of the proposed pipeline on the highly endangered Whooping crane and in so doing, ignored the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
The Obama administration could announce its decision whether to block this remarkably flawed proposal at any time. The White House needs to hear from you. Please go to Tell President Obama to Reject the Keystone XL! to tell the President to block the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Migration Pathway — From the US Fish & Wildlife Service; Proposed Keystone Expansion Route — From the U.S. Department of State
Originally published January 7, 2014 at 6:30 p.m., updated January 7, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.
The whooping cranes have been in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge since November. The endangered birds will spend the winter and early spring months here before flying back to Canada in April.
The Aransas flock is the last remaining natural migratory flock, and we are proud to know it has a safe refuge in our area. The cranes are part of an important ecosystem balance that both private citizens and government agencies have worked hard to maintain. But some elements of those preservation efforts are still adjusting.
According to a previous article, one group, the International Crane Foundation, says the method used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to survey the population of cranes is providing an incomplete set of data. The previous method employed was a census conducted by Tom Stehn, retired whooping crane coordinator for the wildlife service, that attempted to count each individual crane throughout the season using weekly flights over the refuge. Now, the survey method looks at a portion of the population over a one-month period and uses a mathematical equation to estimate how many cranes there are this year.
In order to fill in the blanks, the foundation is conducting its own count along 10 miles of shoreline up the Intracoastal Waterway on the east side of Blackjack Peninsula – about 20 percent of the cranes’ habitat – for the third year. The count is meant to examine the status of a subset of the population.
We are glad to see both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a private nonprofit are collecting information on this endangered species. Whooping cranes rely on a delicate balance that includes freshwater flow, water salinity, food availability and more. The survey method, while not as specific as a census, offers a general spectrum of the number of cranes in the refuge, but the limited time used to count the cranes seems counterintuitive. The crane population can fluctuate as the season progresses. Birds do not die during a specific time period. It would be better to find a way to offer updated surveys throughout the season to keep tabs on the population rather than taking a count at the beginning of the season and hoping there are no significant changes.
We applaud everyone who plays a part in protecting this important, valuable species. But because the species is so important to the Aransas refuge ecosystem, we encourage the government to develop a more extensive counting system that will provide a more complete picture of how the population changes throughout the season. The more data that is available, the better we can protect these endangered birds.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.