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USsurveyndswhoopingcranepopulationincreasingCranesontheirwaytoWoodBuffaloexpectedbyMayEnvironmentWildlife17TuesdayMarch252014www.iti.gov.nt.caByMARIACHURCHThebelovedwhoopingcraneoneoftheworldsrar-estbirdsandasummerguestinWoodBuffaloNationalParkisgrowinginnumbersaccordingtothelatestsurveyfromtheUS.TheUSFishandWildlifeServicecounted304wildwhoopingcranesinthesurveyareaa154000-acreexpanseonandaroundtheAransasNationalWildlifeRefugeinTexaswherethepopulationwinterseachyearupfrom257lastyear.ThenumbersaregoodnewsforthefragilepopulationofcranesandconsistentwithanupwardtrendrecordedoverthelastseveralyearsWadeHarrellUSWhoopingCranecoordinatortoldTheJournal.HarrellsaidAransaswashitbyadroughtoverthelasttwowinterswhichlikelyaffectedtheprevioussurveyresultsasthecranessoughtrefugeoutsideofthecoastalwet-landstheyusuallycallhome.ThisyearwedidhaveabitbetteryearintermsofrainfallandcoastalmarshconditionsandfoodresourcesavailablesowedidhaveagoodrecruitmentyearforjuvenilebirdscomingdownfromCanadahesaid.Springmigrationhasal-readybegunforahandfulofthecraneswithreportedsightingsinOklahomaandKansasalongtheirmigrationroutelastweekHarrellsaid.Iwouldexpectwithinthenextweekorsowewillstartgettingmorespring-timesoutherlywindsandmoreofthepopulationwillstartnorth-ward.YouwouldexpectmostofthecranestoleaveTexasbymidAprilhesaid.ThecraneswilllikelyreachWoodBuffaloasearlyasMayheadded.CranesfacethreatsduringwinterAsthecranesrelaxinthemarshywarmthofTexasdur-ingthewinterseasonHarrellsaidtheyfacecertainthreatsthatarecloselymonitoredbyUSbiologists.Oneofthosethreatsispeople.WedonthavethelargeroadlesspreservethatyouhaveinCanadasotherearepeoplearoundcranesallthetimewhichisnotnecessar-ilyabadthingbutitdoesproducethepossibilityofthreatsHarrellsaid.USwhoopingcranecon-servationistsmadesomeheadwayinthelasttwoyearswithnewsfromtheUSWet-landReserveProgramthatanadditional15000acresofwhoopingcranehabitatwouldbeconservedaroundtheTexascoast.AnotherthreatfacedbythewinteringcranesistheirproximitytotheGulfofMexicowherethereissig-nicantchemicalandpetro-leumshipping.Theresalwaysanout-sidechancethatyouwouldhaveaspillandthatwouldbeaverysignicantthreatthatwetryandplanforHarrellsaid.ParksCanadainTexasWoodBuffaloNationalParkstaffRobKentandJannaJaquewererecentlyinAransastopresentattheannualWhoopingCraneFestival.Thepresentationwasstandingroomonlywithsomanywhoop-ingcraneenthusiastscrowdingintohearfromtheCanadians.DeemedoneofthebesttodatethisyearsfestivalheldFeb.20to23drewmorethan700registeredparticipantsfromacrosstheworldtoseetherarebirdscloseup.PhotoSteveSykesPhotocourtesyofParksCanadaOneoftheworldsrarestspeciesofbirdtheWoodBuffalo-AransaswhoopingcranepopulationhasbeensteadilyincreasingaccordingtothelatestsurveyresultsfromtheUSFishandWildlifeService.FourthandfthfromleftParksCanadastaffRobKentandJannaJaquepresentattheannualWhoopingCraneFestivalinAransasTexaslastmonth.