Pair of Endangered Whooping Cranes Found Shot in Louisiana

By Michele Berger
Published: February 10, 2014

The whooping crane, North America’s tallest bird, has a storied past. Population numbers dropped to tens of birds at their lowest, and today they’ve bounced back thanks to some serious conservation efforts. But still, only hundreds of these red-capped birds exist in the wild. So when two individuals get shot and one of those two dies, it’s a big deal.

That’s precisely what happened last week when two cranes were found shot in Louisiana. The female of the pair was killed; the male was transported to Louisiana State University to be examined, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). He had surgery Saturday and is now recovering, LDWF spokesman Adam Einck told

“Yesterday he was showing signs of being able to stand and being interested in food again. Signs are good he’s going to be able to make a recovery,” Einck said. What’s still unknown, however, is whether the bird will be able to fly again. If not, the male will not return to the wild, instead being placed somewhere such as a zoo or refuge.

A dead female whooping crane found Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, near Roanoke in southwest Jefferson Davis Parish, La. A $1,000 reward is being offered for any information. (AP Photo/Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

 LDWF doesn’t currently have any leads into who shot these two birds, but the department does believe lead shot was used. As part of its Operation Game Thief program, the agency is offering a $1,000 reward for information about the illegal shooting that leads to an arrest.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time in recent memory such a headline has graced the news. Last November, two whooping cranes were shot and killed in Kentucky while passing through the area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in January. According to the blog 10,000 Birds, authorities held off announcing the incident to leave time for an investigation.

As for the event that just happened in Louisiana it’s a big loss for that population of birds, LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said in a news release. “Anytime we lose one of these cranes, it sets us back in our efforts,” he said.  “These were once native birds to Louisiana and the department would like to see these cranes thrive again.”

If you have any information, call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-442-2511.

MORE: A Quest to Photograph 10,000 Animals Before They Go Extinct

A mother koala with her two joeys (Phascolarctos cinereus) at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in Beerwah, Queensland, Australia. Conservation Status: Least Concern. Population Trend: Unknown. (Joel Sartore)

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