Archive for the ‘Headline’ Category

Whooping Cranes nesting in Louisiana after a 75 year hiatus

Friday, April 18th, 2014

LAFAYETTE — Two eggs sitting on a nest of marsh grass and sticks in a crawfish pond offer a bit of hope in a project to bring back the endangered whooping crane to south Louisiana.


Read the full story on The Advocate website

Marty Folk receives WCCA Honor Award

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

In recognition of his many achievements on behalf of whooping cranes and their recovery, an HONOR AWARD was presented to MARTIN J. FOLK on the 28th day of March, 2014, at Davenport, Florida.

marty_honor_awardThe Award Citation Reads: “As Biological Field Coordinator for the Non-Migratory Whooping Crane Project, Marty Folk has been involved in all aspects of the Florida whooping crane release. He has selected release sites, established release pens, released birds and monitored the cranes after release. Marty has been instrumental in developing new and innovative capture techniques and handling protocols for the birds he has captured. He has also developed the use of videography for remote monitoring of nests to determine nesting behavior and egg and chick mortality factors. Marty is a prolific writer and has contributed numerous papers on the non-migratory whoopers including capture techniques, molt patterns, behavior, disease and mortality. Marty has also shared his knowledge as a member of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team and has contributed to the development of the International Whooping Crane Recovery Plan. Currently Marty is the editor of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association newsletter Grus Americana.”

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association was very pleased to present Marty Folk with the HONOR AWARD. The award is given on an infrequent basis to an individual or organization who through exceptional achievement and dedication, has contributed significantly to the conservation and/or collective knowledge of the Whooping Crane. Friends and colleagues wish Marty well in his retirement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


Latest News

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Whooping Crane population tops 300

The Aransas/Wood Buffalo Population of whooping cranes has reached a milestone with over 300 individuals accounted for during the 2013/14 winter. Recent counts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate the population to be approximately 304 individuals including 39 juveniles. This population of whooping cranes is cyclic and fluctuates on an approximate 10 year cycle. The 39 young along with the population increase indicates that the flock is into a growth phase. Hopefully habitat conditions on the breeding grounds will be good in 2014 to allow for continued expansion of the population.

The full report and additional updates can be found on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge WebPage


Whooping Crane telemetry video

The capture and banding of a whooping crane at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge:



Whooping Crane Nesting Season -2013

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

This news article summarizes the 2013 breeding season in Wood Buffalo National Park.

Whooping Cranes shot in Kentucky

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday revealed new details in the deaths of two two endangered whooping cranes in Western Kentucky, announcing the amount of a reward being offered.

Read the full article on

Whooping Crane Recovery Report (2012-2013)

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The Report on Whooping Crane Recovery Activities provides information on the birds’ 2012 breeding season through the 2013 spring migration.

Visit the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge website for more details.

What’s up with the Whooping Cranes?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013



Due to illness and travel restrictions the Whooping Crane Symposium What’s up with the Whooping Cranes? has been cancelled. The recovery team meeting to follow the symposium is also cancelled and will be rescheduled in the new year.



The Whooping Crane Conservation Association is partnering with the Saskatoon Nature Society and Nature Saskatchewan to host a free public symposium on Whooping Cranes.

The Whooping Crane Recovery Team is meeting in Saskatoon in early October and several members have agreed to share their latest research findings and insights with the public prior to their meeting. The symposium What’s up with the Whooping Cranes?  will provide information on the past, present and future of one of North America’s most beautiful, interesting and endangered birds.

The symposium will be held Saturday, October 5, from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Get Directions…

If you are planning to go, let us know on Facebook…

Fort Smith man stands on guard for whooping cranes – Canadian Wildlife notes whoopers expanding nesting range

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
by Renée Francoeur, Reporter, The Northern Journal, Fort Smith, NT, Canada
Almost every evening from May to September, Ronnie Schaefer of Fort Smith can be found in his hip waders slogging through marshes on Salt River First Nation reserve land, just down from Lobstick Creek.

His mission – completely voluntary – is to watch over the tallest birds in North America, the whooping cranes, which nest in the area after a 2,500-mile summer migration from Texas.

An elegant whooping crane swoops across the wetlands.

Photo by Photo: Klaus Nigge – An elegant whooping crane swoops across a wetland.

“They’re my passion and I want to help protect them. You can’t see this anywhere else,” said Schaefer, a town bylaw officer and Salt River First Nation councillor.

Canada is home to the world’s largest migratory population of whooping cranes. According to Environment Canada, there are almost 300 birds in the Wood Buffalo flock – the only self-sustaining, wild flock on earth.

Whooping cranes were designated as endangered in Canada in the year 2000. It was estimated by the Whooping Crane Conservation Association that only 16 whooping cranes were left on the entire planet in 1941-1942.

“I was probably 14 when I saw my first whooper. I was out hunting birds at Foxholes. When I came to realize these were endangered birds, I just wanted to take care of them,” Schaefer said. “I want to share what I know and see with others so we can come together to help preserve their habitat.”

Schaefer has named the two young cranes he’s been keeping an eye on Snowball and Snowflake, who he thinks are descendents of the original “Lobstick pair,” which still nest further down on the Foxholes prairie land.

Canadian Wildlife counts 74 nests in 2013

Ronnie Schaefer of Fort Smith takes a closer peek at Snowball and Snowflake.
Photo: Renee Francoeur – Ronnie Schaefer of Fort Smith takes a closer peek at Snowball and Snowflake.

Many cranes make their nests in the traditional breeding grounds in the northeastern corner of Wood Buffalo National Park. Their nests are counted every year for a survey by the Canadian Wildlife Service, undertaken in partnership with Environment Canada and Parks Canada.This year, 74 nests were counted, according to Mark Bidwell, a species at risk biologist with Environment Canada. That number is one less than the record set in 2011 at 75.

“Counting the nests gives us an idea of how the birds are doing and it helps us track their movement,” he told The Journal. “The number of nests goes up and down from year to year, but over long periods of time, it’s continuing to tick upwards. That’s a positive.”

Bidwell estimates about 150 birds are breeding  out of the 300 in the flock.

As well, Bidwell noted, the population continues to expand outside the park. Eight nests were discovered outside Wood Buffalo’s perimeters this year – one more than ever recorded. Additionally, breeding pairs, known to go back to the same nest year after year, are making nests in new locations, never before monitored by surveyists. Four to six new nests were recorded this year.

“What this means is the population is moving increasingly into areas that are not formally protected. It’s not a critical situation yet as most birds are still using the park and the ones using areas outside the park, those locations are still quite remote. In Texas, however, where they spend the winter, it’s different and they are coming into more contact with people and development.”

More possibilities of human interaction with the cranes also worries Schaefer.

“Almost every long weekend there are people out quadding in this nesting area at Foxholes,” he said. “On the May long weekend, a big group was headed right for the nest and if I hadn’t been here to stop them, they’d most likely have run right over it…There’s this perception, you can go quad anywhere. You can’t. This is a restricted area. I put big ‘Whooper Warning’ signs up to keep people away from them, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Sonia Trudeau, who went out with Schaefer to see the cranes last month, said she cried when she saw the eggs.

“That is something no one gets to ever see. It’s so special. I’ve lived here in Smith all my life and never seen that,” she said. “More people need to be aware of where the nests are. We need to protect them and their habitat or they won’t be here one day.”

The Canadian Wildlife Service will return to the Fort Smith area in August to do a follow up survey on the nesting success and chick productivity.

“Typically, 40 to 50 per cent of the nests we found in May will have chicks survive. That’s not as bad as it sounds for a big-bodied bird who can live up to 20 years,” Bidwell said. “While most pairs lay two eggs, usually only one chick survives. Sometimes there are both, though, depending on the year and resources.”

Meanwhile, Schaefer said he plans to keep a close eye on Snowflake and Snowball’s rusty-brown coloured chick, who just hatched last week.

“They know me. I can read them. I know when to back off when they’re in protective mode. I think they know I’m looking out for them,” he said.

Whooping Crane Nesting Going Great

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

by Chester McConnell, WCCA

A Canadian citizen whooping crane observer told the Whooping Crane Conservation Association that 74 nests have been counted in Wood Buffalo National Park this year (2013). Some of the nest have already hatched and the whooping crane parents are making their unison calls as shown in the photograph. The Association is hoping for a very successful reproduction this year. Note the young whooping crane chick in the photograph.

Photograph by Brian Johns, President, Whooping Crane conservation Association

Whooping Cranes making unison call at nest site, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada.  ** photo by Brian John, President, Whooping Crane Conservation Associations **

Salt Mountain burns as Mother Nature has her way

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

by  Don Jaque  –  Northern Journal, Fort Smith, Canada— June 10, 2013 at 6:32 PM

The fire on top of Salt Mountain approximately 30 km west of Fort Smith grows to 1,100 hectares on Wednesday evening due to a cold cell and gusting winds that sent embers across the highway out of Wood Buffalo National Park.

Photo: ENR NWT – The fire on top of Salt Mountain approximately 30 km west of Fort Smith grows to 1,100 hectares on Wednesday evening due to a cold cell and gusting winds that sent embers across the highway out of Wood Buffalo National Park.

For the second time in less than 11 months, a major campaign fire on Salt Mountain within 35 km of Fort Smith brought that community to a high state of alert, followed by relief after it was expertly controlled.

Last summer in late July, a multi-jurisdictional fire that started in Wood Buffalo National Park involved Alberta, NWT and national park resources in a campaign fire pushed by wind. Fire crews managed to corral it just as it threatened to cross Hwy 5 and take out the power lines from Taltson Dam that serve Fort Resolution, Enterprise and Hay River and potentially even turn towards Fort Smith. The fire was contained right at the highway with textbook-like precision.

The current fire started June 1 due to lightning in the park, burning slightly southwest of the 2012 burn, just south of Hwy 5. Over several days, Parks Canada crews from Wood Buffalo and three other national parks worked the fire on the ground, assisted by choppers with buckets and tankers of retardant from Alberta and the NWT.

On the night of June 3, the fire grew dramatically overnight. Crews performed a successful burnout operation along the highway to clean out fuels it might feed on if it turned that way to cut off the road and even burn the power lines. It was well contained and under control at that point.

Mother Nature decided to trump all that, however. On June 5, the weather changed and a cold front moved in, generating high winds from the south. By the afternoon, the fire had jumped the highway.

A GNWT water bomber heads through a thick cloud of smoke during control efforts on Wednesday evening.

Photo: Patrick Pennycook – A GNWT water bomber heads through a thick cloud of smoke during control efforts on Wednesday evening.

“A spot inside the fire flared up and embers travelled across Hwy 5,” commented Jean Morin, fire program manager for Wood Buffalo National Park. He said the embers flew nearly a kilometre from well inside the fire, over the burnout, and started a new fire on the north side of the highway. It moved quickly.

“With the wind, the spread of the fire was very fast,” Morin said.

He said they bucketed the fire with the Parks Canada choppers and the NWT government called in air tankers to lay down retardant. The fire got into pine and spruce forest along the road to the Foxholes Prairies, producing a massive smoke column in the afternoon sky.

The fire then became an NWT challenge and crews from Fort Providence, Fort Liard, Inuvik and Hay River joined Fort Smith crews on the ground and hit it hard. Retardant lines were laid down by air tankers to protect the nearby settlement of Salt River. Five bulldozers were contracted to create a fire guard that protected both Salt River and the Foxholes Prairies where several pair of whooping cranes nest.

In the middle of the rampaging wildfire was an encampment of heavy equipment belonging to Aurora College, sitting in a gravel quarry near the Foxholes road where the college runs on-site training for a Thebacha Campus Heavy Equipment Operator course. College staff were forced to abandon the work site as soon as news came of the fast moving fire. There was fear all that expensive equipment might be lost.

Fortunately, all equipment survived unscathed. The Caterpillar tractors, loader and excavator were parked in the centre of a large gravel pit and the fire burned around and past it.

Cool weather subsequently helped the firefighters’ cause and with rain June 6, the blaze, after six action-packed days, was finally brought under control.