Whooping cranes are the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, with less than 500 living in the wild in the United States. Kentucky is fortunate to have seven whooping cranes wintering in the Commonwealth this year.
On November 25, 2013, the International Crane Foundation received a report from a Hopkins County resident of a whooping crane that appeared to be injured. Initially, the wounded crane was still able to fly, but was extremely weakened, and was rescued on November 27, 2013. Among other injuries, the crane’s upper leg was shattered. Attempts to save the bird were unsuccessful, and the crane identified as 5-09 had to be euthanized.
That crane, which was identified based on its release year (2009) as 5-09, and its mate, known as 33-07, had arrived in Hopkins County around November 14, 2013, where they had wintered the previous two years in the area northeast of Madisonville between Hwy 85 and 254. Both cranes had been fitted with radio transmitters which led investigators to the remaining carcass of crane 33-07. This second whooping crane was recovered in northeast Muhlenburg County along Pond River north of Hwy 70 on December 13, 2013. Investigators believe both cranes, recovered five miles apart, were shot in the same incident.
A $7,200 reward is being offered to anyone with information that directly leads to an arrest or a criminal conviction of those responsible for shooting the whooping cranes. The following organizations have supplemented the reward fund in an effort to support the investigation: Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Foundation, International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, St. Marks Refuge Association, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, The Environmental Resource Network (Georgia), and Friends of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, as well as a private volunteer at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The reward fund continues to grow daily.
Whooping cranes are protected under two federal laws: the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Penalties could range up to a $100,000 fine and/or one year in federal prison. Anyone with information concerning the killing of the whooping cranes is urged to contact Special Agent Bob Snow at (502) 582-5989, ext. 29, or theKentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources dispatch at 1-800-25ALERT (800-252-5378).
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