Remote Tracking of Aransas-Wood Buffalo Whooping Cranes

by:  Chester McConnell, WCCA

Several government agencies and private organizations have formed the Whooping Crane Tracking Partnership (WCTP) to determine, more specifically, the migration path and activities of whooping cranes that migrate between Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas and Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. The WCTP trapped whooping cranes, made health checks and collected blood and other biological samples. Then they placed on each crane a Global Positioning System with Platform Transmitting Terminals device as a way to identify migration pathways for the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping cranes. WCTP recently released a report covering the 2011 breeding season and fall migration.

The WCTP gathered detailed information concerning where 23 whooping cranes spent time at and the length of time they remained at various locations during the 2011 breeding season and fall migration. Highlight from the report described one adult crane nesting during the summer 2011 but was observed without young during fall migration. Tracking data showed one 1-year- crane spending the summer in southern Saskatchewan and northern North Dakota.

Migration travel time between the Wood Buffalo summer nesting area in Canada and the wintering habitat at Aransas, Texas varied for different whooping cranes. Some of the 23 cranes with GPS were migrating during a 79 day period. The first cranes began migration on September 10 and all cranes that completed migration arrived on the Texas coast by November 27.

Mortality during migration is important to understand. The WCTP confirmed one mortality of the 23 GPS whooping cranes during migration. This was a juvenile crane that died in early November. WCTP plans future trapping efforts for August 2012 at Wood Buffalo National Park and during winter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Hopefully the study will help to better understand whooping cranes and management needs. The report includes much interesting information.

The entire WCTP report with a map can be read by clicking on the following link: