Whoops! Calling off the cranes


In this Jan. 14, 2011 file photo, the second ultralight aircraft brings four out of five whooping cranes on a fly-by of the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport.

Jacqui Janetzko/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.

The migration has ended in Alabama for the nine whooping crane chicks being taught how to migrate by following ultralight aircraft flown by Operation Migration Inc. pilots. The birds will not be proceeding to Florida for the winter as originally planned.

Although the details are being worked out, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, at its annual meeting Wednesday and today, has decided to crate the cranes, which are currently grounded in Winston County, Ala., and bring them over the road to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge located between Huntsville and Decatur, Ala.

WCEP, a consortium of government and private agencies from Canada and the United States, oversees the effort to create a second, eastern, migrating flock of endangered whooping cranes in the event the only existing wild migrating flock, which flies from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, should become diseased or die off.

The decision to shorten this year's 1,285-mile eastern migration, which began Oct. 9 at the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area southeast of Necedah, Wis., came after the young cranes, which have had long stretches down-time, refused to follow the aircraft. The original plan was to bring half the flock to St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge in Florida's Big Bend area and the other half to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River for the winter. As a result, there will be no flyover at the Marion-Dunnellon airport.

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