An endangered whooping crane returning to Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) after over-wintering at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas was shot and killed on April 20 in South Dakota.
The Whooping Crane Conservation Association is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person who shot the bird. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also offered a reward.
The crane, one of only approximately 300 that migrate between WBNP and Aransas, was killed southwest of Miller, South Dakota. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the bird was traveling with two other cranes. The crane was shot with a high-powered rifle.
According to Chester McConnell, trustee emeritus at the Whooping Crane Conservation Association, it’s rare for a crane to be shot because of their wariness towards humans, but when it does happen, it’s usually as a result of maliciousness.
All of the cranes that over-winter at Aransas have now left the refuge and are heading back to WBNP. Rhona Kindopp, an ecosystem scientist there, said 35 whooping cranes are tagged and outfitted with GPS telemetry units. The first of those have now returned to WBNP. She noted the bird shot in South Dakota was not outfitted with a telemetry unit.
The flock of whooping cranes is spread out between WBNP and Aransas as the birds wing their way northward. Kindopp said nine GPS-tagged birds are in Saskatchewan, including four juveniles tagged in summer 2011 and five adult birds.
“Judging by the number of marked birds just south of Saskatchewan, this week coming should be busy in that province,” Kindopp said.