Campaign focuses on whooping crane awareness

Campaign focuses on whooping crane awareness

POSTED: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 3:00am

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 3:04am

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is launching a multi-faceted public education campaign designed to increase public awareness of the presence of whooping cranes in the state.

The non-migratory population, currently numbering 16 cranes, has been in southwest Louisiana since 2011 and has moved beyond the boundaries of White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area where the cranes were first released.
“The department wants the public to know that this species repopulation project is underway and care should be taken if these birds are encountered,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “We greatly appreciate the funding support provided by Chevron to educate the public about the work being done.”

Utilizing a grant provided by Chevron, LDWF will distribute a teaching module recently developed that specifically addresses this new non-migratory flock of whooping cranes. Eight engaging, GLE- aligned lessons covering topics such as taxonomy, bird reproduction, ecosystems, adaptation, and endangered species will be distributed to Louisiana educators via day-long workshops to be held at four locations throughout the state. Geared toward teachers of middle and high school students and informal educators, these workshops will explain the complexities and challenges of the reintroduction program, demonstrate the new classroom lesson activities, and engage participants in field work related to habitat identification using GPS units.

“Chevron is pleased to partner with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Warner Williams, Chevron North America Gulf of Mexico Vice President. “We recognize the important role education plays in protecting the rich biodiversity of Louisiana for future generations to enjoy.”

Workshop participants will receive a $75 stipend, a handheld GPS unit for classroom use, the lesson series, and other related items. The first workshop will be held at LDWF’s White Lake facility south of Gueydan on August 2, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration information can be found on the website at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/eec or by contacting Venise Ortego at vortego@wlf.la.gov.

LDWF’s public awareness efforts will include billboards and radio announcements that alert citizens that the cranes are here and the public has a role in helping the department restore a Louisiana treasure.

Additionally, the Chevron funds cover the costs of tracking devices that provide biologists data on the cranes’ location several times per day. This information tells biologists what types of habitat the cranes are using throughout the day and provides the opportunity for observations of individual birds to assess their health and well-being.

The whooping cranes now in the state were raised at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and transported to Vermilion Parish. Movement of the birds has been traced to Avoyelles, West Feliciana, Evangeline, Allen, Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, Acadia, St. Martin, Iberia, Cameron and Vermilion parishes in the months since their arrival. The two groups of birds delivered in 2011 will be supplemented by additional deliveries over the next several years.

The whooping crane is protected under the federal Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts and by state law. Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance to avoid disturbing it.
The species is large-bodied and adults are white with black wing tips, similar to white ibis, white pelicans and wood storks, all of which must be distinguished from the much smaller and legally-hunted snow geese. Mature whooping cranes are easily identifiable as they stand five feet tall and have a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet. Characteristics of whooping cranes in flight include black wing tips and fully extended neck and legs, which extend well beyond the tail.
Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving whooping cranes is advised to report that information to LDWF’s Enforcement Division by calling 1-800-442-2511 or using the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions. To use the tip411 program, citizens can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the "LADWF Tips" iPhone app from the Apple iTunes store free of charge. CitizenObserver, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender.

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