A whooping crane found dead in southern Texas is the center of an investigation by Texas game wardens.
A local hunting guide found the bird early Sunday morning. Protected as an endangered species since 1967, whooping cranes have slowly been making a comeback but continue to face difficult odds. Over the years, several cases involving whooping cranes that were shot have led to prosecution.
The whooping crane found dead in Aransas County, Texas near a duck blind, leaving open the possibility that the bird was shot accidentally. State officials are waiting for necropsy results to aid in their investigation. The investigation is more difficult as the whooping crane was partially decomposed when discovered.
Whooping cranes reached an all time low of 16 birds in 1938 before slowly rebounding through intense conservation efforts. Today’s population is close to 400 birds. Almost five feet tall, they are North America’s tallest birds and their white bodies with black tipped wings are easily recognizable both in flight and when the birds are on the ground. Migrating north to nest, the birds return to wintering grounds in places across the south late each fall.
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has long been an important wintering ground for whooping cranes. The last surviving wild population continues to use the refuge each winter before flying to northern Canada to nest each summer. Recent efforts have focused on establishing migrating populations east of the Mississippi River, but currently the population using the Aransas refuge is easily the largest and most important to the long-term survival and recovery of the whooping crane.
Texas game wardens are seeking information that anyone may have on the death of the whooping crane found Sunday. If you have information on the bird, please call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). You have the option of remaining anonymous when reporting wildlife violations in Texas.