Whooping Crane Migration Enters Florida

Seventeen endangered whooping crane chicks and their surrogate parents-four
ultralight aircraft-today reached Hamilton County, Florida as they continue
their 1,250-mile migration from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in
central Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka NWR along Florida's Gulf Coast. They
have traveled 1,098 miles.

These majestic birds, the largest in North America, began their migration
from Necedah on Oct. 13. Hamilton County, Florida is one of the many
pre-arranged stopovers the ultralight migration crew will use along its
journey to allow the pilots and birds to rest between flights.

This is by far the longest time it has taken us to make the migration,"
said Liz Condie of Operation Migration. "We think that the La Ni'a weather
pattern may be the reason the wind patterns have slowed our progress this

The latest the migration had arrived until this year was December 19, 2006,
a migration that took 76 days. The migration this year began on October 13,

"We wish the cranes and the hard working pilots and crew of Operation
Migration a safe journey on this, the longest duration migration so far,"
said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. "Re-establishing this Eastern migratory population moves us
another step closer to recovering this magnificent bird. With the great
support of conservationists and the expertise of Operation Migration and
the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), we are proving again success
can be achieved."

There are now 59 migratory whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North
America thanks to the efforts of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
(WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups that is
reintroducing whooping cranes in their historic range.

In addition to the 17 birds being led south by ultralights, 10 other birds
were released in the company of older cranes in the hope that the young
whooping cranes learn the migration route, part of WCEP's "Direct Autumn
Release" program, which supplements the successful ultralight

For more information about WCEP, go to http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there
are only about 350 of them in the wild. WCEP asks anyone who encounters a
whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance
they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; try to remain in
your vehicle; and do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards. Also,
please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can
hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to
view whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International
Crane Foundation; Operation Migration Inc.; Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Geological Survey's
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center; the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; the Natural Resources Foundation of
Wisconsin; and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation
groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources,
funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project's budget comes
from private sources in the form of grants, public donations, and corporate

--U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service