Posted: Feb 22, 2013 3:05 PM by Juan Acuna - firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: Feb 22, 2013 6:42 PM
ARANSAS COUNTY, TX - Whooping cranes spend the winter season at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Austwell, TX.
After one of the endangered cranes was accidentally shot and killed by a hunter on San Jose Island earlier this year, there's concern the cranes may be moving away from the refuge.
Out on a large and remote location in Aransas County is the 115,000 acre Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, a prime location for endangered whooping cranes that are wintering in the area.
Back into the 1940's the whooping crane numbers were only into the teens, but thanks to the efforts of the refuge, those numbers have grown past 200.
Due to the incident on San Jose Island, we asked wildlife officials if they're worried cranes are placing themselves at risk as they move outside the refuge.
Whooping crane coordinator, Dr. Wade Harrell, with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said, "There always is concern no one likes to see a loss of an endangered species, but there are natural mortality factors out there you do see individual loses, the positive thing is with the growth of the flock its much more resilient now to losing a few birds than it was say 30 to 40 years ago."
As the cranes continue to spread beyond the refuge boundaries, officials say they will continue to look for ways to preserve the habitats so that the cranes have a safe and secure environment.
Though natural predators may affect a small number of cranes, Dr. Harrel says there are other factors that weigh heavily on his mind.
"Our biggest concern here on the coast is that we would have maybe a freak weather event like a hail storm, late season hurricane, or a human caused event like an oil spill or chemical spill along the coast," said Dr. Harrell
Something of that magnitude could have a more dramatic effect on the population of the cranes and could take years for the species to recover.
Still, Dr. Harrell states that the whooping cranes continue to migrate all the way from Canada to the coastal shores each winter and that the numbers continue to grow on average about 4 to 4 1/2 percent a year.
Federal authorities are investigating the shooting of that whooping crane on San Jose Island and no charges have been filed.
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