Whooping crane shot in Louisiana; $10,000 reward for info

 
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

NEW ORLEANS -- A female whooping crane released about a year ago was shot in Vermilion Parish and had to be put to death, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said.

There's a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the conviction of whoever shot the bird in early November, department spokesman Adam Einck said Wednesday.

He said the department waited to make the information public until officials were certain what killed the bird and had reward money ready.

Einck said the injury to the bird's upper leg was too severe to be sure what had caused it until a necropsy report arrived Jan. 8, about 1½ weeks after the most recent group of juvenile cranes was released at White Lake, near Gueydan.

The bird had an apparent bullet wound in her upper left leg when she was found Nov. 2, and was euthanized the next day at the Louisiana State University veterinary school.

Einck said he believed the decision was made because "it couldn't stand on its own and they didn't think it would ever be able to stand."

Whooping cranes are among the world's most endangered birds. There are only about 600, all descendants of 16 birds in a flock that migrates between Texas and Canada. That flock now numbers about 275, with about 100 in a flock trained to migrate between Wisconsin and Florida.

They were part of Louisiana's landscape through the early 1940s. They were hunted and collected nationwide, but loss of marshes and tall grass prairies to farmland was an even bigger problem, according to the department.

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Louisiana is trying to build a flock in southwest Louisiana and has released 64 since 2011 at White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area, less than 20 miles of the latest shooting. Forty survive; shootings account for six of the deaths.

Nobody has claimed two other rewards: $20,000 for conviction of whoever shot a mated pair that was building practice nests in Jefferson Davis Parish in February 2014, and $15,000 for whoever hit a bird in the leg in April 2013.

Einck said the bird shot in 2013 apparently flew some distance after it was shot. It died northwest of Loggy Bayou in Red River Parish, 170 miles from White Lake.

Einck said the latest reward includes $3,000 from anonymous donors, up to $5,000 from The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, and $1,000 each from the department's Operation Game Thief program and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation.

Tips can be called to Operation Game Thief at 800-442-2511, texted to 847411, or sent through the free LADWF Tips iPhone and Android apps. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

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