Whooping Crane Group Petitions To Continue Using Ultralight Aircraft

Federal Agency Has Recommended Phasing Out Technique For Guiding Wisconsin Birds

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One of the groups helping establish a migrating flock of whooping cranes in the eastern United States has launched a petition drive against a federal agency’s potential changes for the program.

Operation Migration uses ultralight aircraft to lead some Wisconsin-raised whooping cranes on the birds’ first autumn flight to the southeastern U.S. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now recommends phasing out use of the small planes.

Operation Migration CEO Joe Duff said his group is asking people to sign a website petition aimed at keeping the ultralights. He said it’s the best system for the cranes.

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“Our survival rates are high, our reproduction rates are the best of any release method used so far,” said Duff.

He said the whooping crane project is on the cusp of learning whether the whoopers can successfully breed after being raised at sites in east-central Wisconsin the last few years, instead of just among black flies at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

A decision on the ultralights may come in January.