Whooping cranes led by ultralight aircraft from their summer home in Wisconsin have made it to Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The cranes winter in and around Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico and will return to Wisconsin and other northern areas on their own in the spring.
Researchers have been leading cranes to Florida every year since 2000. This year’s 17 cranes — the “class of 2007” — are part of an experimental flock that researchers are trying to establish in the eastern United States. (There is already an established flock in the west.)
Previous years’ cranes fly to and from Florida on their own, unassisted.
After the first few years of following the crane migration, every year that a new class of cranes comes to Florida and makes news, I wonder if I should still point it out on EcoFlorida. After all, you aren’t likely to see this experimental flock (there is another experimental flock of whooping cranes in Florida that doesn’t migrate), and even though it’s a fun story, it’s kind of almost like the story from the previous year.
However, I think the real key to what researchers are doing is helping re-establish whooping cranes in the eastern United States — and that it’s a good example for what could be done (and in some cases is being done) to help out other species. It would be great to see more endangered species being captive bred and introduced into the wild.