Friday, February 17, 2006

Winter weather not nice for Whoopers

Last weekend's rain and snow on the East Coast caused "major damage" to the endangered species captive propagation complex at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The weather also released nine Whooping Cranes and nine Sandhill Cranes from their pens.

The staff at the Laurel, Md., center worked throughout the weekend, but the storm almost destroyed the birds' flight pens completely, which could affect the current breeding season. The disruption of the Whoopers' activities and environment could reduce their egg production and hinder the center's efforts to reintroduce the Whoopers (above), which remain a highly endangered species.

Staff members recaptured most of the avian escapees by Monday afternoon, but the sandhills remained on the lam. Sandhills serve as surrogate parents to Whooping Crane chicks, so they're vital to the captive-propagation program's success.

For updates, check the center's website.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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