The International Crane Foundation reported that there are 41 new eggs at the foundation's captive breeding center in Baraboo — eggs that have become increasingly vital as shootings of the rare birds increase.
As outreach director Joan Garland explains, not all of the new eggs will hatch.
“We have so far produced about 41 whooping crane eggs,” said Garland. “Thirteen of those so far that we know of are fertile, and 10 of them were unfertile, and then the others are too young to tell if they are fertile or not.”
There were also nine broken eggs in the batch.
Garland says there is some good news in Wisconsin's wild whooping crane population: “Just this past week, we received news that we have three whooping crane chicks that have hatched in the wild,” she said. “One of those hatched at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, and two have hatched out, one in Adams County and one in Wood County.”
The work at captive breeding centers like the one in Baraboo has taken on added urgency because of a disturbing increase in the number of shootings of the rare birds, amounting to 20 percent of the mortality rate for the Wisconsin population.
“Most recently there were two whooping cranes, a breeding pair in fact, that were shot on their wintering grounds in Kentucky,” said Garland. “We've had cases of shootings in Alabama, in Georgia, in the Midwestern states, here in Indiana. So unfortunately, it's throughout their range.”
Joan Garland says 18 birds have been shot in recent years.
Since whooping cranes have been brought back from near extinction, their numbers have grown to about 450 in the wild and 150 in captivity. Wisconsin's population is at 101 adult birds.