Whooping Cranes Take Flight

WHAT: Preparation and release of 8 whooping cranes into the wild. Scientists will be on hand to participate in interviews while the release takes place.

WHEN: Thursday, March 4, 1999, 4:00 p.m. The release will begin at 4 p.m., followed by a 10-minute drive to the release pens where the first four birds will be processed between 4:45 and 6:00 p.m. The remaining activities will conclude by about 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Near Okahumpka, Fla Directions: Take Highway 27 south from Leesburg to Highway 33/48. Take Highway 33/48 South. Highway 48 goes Southwest, and Highway 33 goes South; continue on Highway 48. Meeting site is 1-2 miles west of where Highway 48 splits from Highway 33, where Highway 48 goes under the Florida Turnpike (Highway 91 on maps) - under the viaduct.

For the first time in decades, a second population of whooping cranes exists in the wild - and on March 4, 1999, eight more whooping cranes bred at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., will be released to join their fellow birds in the marshes near Okahumpka, Fla. Reporters are invited to attend and cover this event.

The captive cranes are part of a program to re-establish another whooping crane population in the wild. At present, only one population exists of this endangered species. The Florida birds, which were carefully selected for specific genetic qualities, have been painstakingly trained to successfully adapt and hunt in natural habitats. Training procedures included rarely allowing the birds to see their human caretakers, who are usually costumed. Since the first releases occurred in 1993, numbers of Florida cranes have reached about 73 individuals. Three whooping crane pairs have established nesting territories and one female is old enough to lay eggs. The goal is for the population to expand as a result of these releases, as well as through natural reproduction of the cranes that have been previously released.


Contact: Patricia Russo Schassburger
United States Geological Survey

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