Injured Whooping Crane Released Back Into Wild At Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge In Meigs County

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thanks to the helpful veterinarians and wildlife staff from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, an injured endangered whooping crane is free again, and in the company of other cranes.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) first heard there was a problem with one of the 111 whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population from members of the public who first reported a whooping crane limping around the outskirts of North Miami.

The female crane, #13-12, is part of a special effort to establish an eastern migrating population of whooping cranes.  Released directly into the wild on October 2012 at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin, it linked up with five other young-of-the year birds and migrated together, ending up the furthest south so far of any bird in this population since releases began in 2001.

This is the first time whooping cranes have reached the Everglades, foraging in Hendry County (Southwest of Okeechobee) at remote cattle ranches.  In early January, two cranes showed up at the interface of wetlands and suburbia on the eastern side of the Everglades, in Broward and Dade Counties.  Members of the public reported that one of the birds was limping.  This bird later showed signs of distress, acting  listless, with an apparent injury to her right foot.

The partnership team responsible conducted a quick but thorough discussion to determine the best possible outcomes, weighing the risks of capture with the benefits of medical treatment and possible relocation.

“We chose to capture this injured whooping crane, and it has turned out to be the right call,” said Billy Brooks, Whooping Crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Eastern Migratory Population. “Because of the efforts of Dr. Scott Terrell, DVM, at Disney, and that of the capture team, we were able to get this bird healthy and back out into the wild.”

She was captured on Jan. 26, and transported to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where her right middle toe was amputated due to an injury and subsequent infection. 

The veterinarians maintained an isolation protocol, operating in costume without using human voices as they treated the bird. 

She remained at Disney and continued to improve until being transported north on Saturday. 

“The longer you hold a bird, the tamer it can become,” said Mr. Brooks. “We have to keep them as wild as possible, and two weeks in captivity is about as long as we like to keep an injured bird in captivity.”

The crane was released at Hiawassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tn., on Saturday. 

No other whooping crane from this population has ever been captured, transported to a medical facility, treated, and successfully re-released back into the wild over the 12 years of the program.  Prior to this case, none had been deemed releasable due to the extent of their injuries.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 600 birds in existence, approximately 445 of them in the wild. Aside from the WCEP birds, the only other migratory population of whooping cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migratory flock of approximately 20 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region, and an additional 28 non-migratory cranes live in southern Louisiana.

Formed in 1999, WCEP is a group of agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals. The partnership’s mission is the restoration of a self-sustaining migratory population of whooping cranes in eastern North America.  Achievement of this mission will bring the whooping crane closer to recovery from its current status as a species in danger of extinction.

For more information on the project and its partners, visit the WCEP website at:

To report whooping crane sightings, visit the WCEP whooping crane observation webpage at

VIDEO: Paddlers At Chattajack

Paddlers were on the water early at Chattajack at Ross's Landing.  Chattajack is set apart from similar races by its length. Its distance calls for athletes who have committed to their training and to their pursuit of endurance. The course is one that requires preparation, but is always a fun, rewarding experience. Chattajack is comprised of a community of people who ... (click for more)

Tennessee State Parks Named 2016 Government Recycler Of The Year

Tennessee State Parks was named the 2016 Government Recycler of the Year at the Tennessee Recycling Coalition’s annual banquet on Oct. 17 in Oak Ridge. In 2015, Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC) Office of Sustainable Practices launched the “Go Green With Us” initiative. The program encourages park staff and visitors ... (click for more)

In Surprise Vote, Chattanooga City Council Turns Down Short Term Vacation Rentals

In a surprise vote, the City Council on Tuesday night turned down allowing a process to legalize short term vacation rentals in Chattanooga. Only Chip Henderson and Jerry Mitchell voted in favor. Opposed were Carol Berz, Yusuf Hakeem, Larry Grohn, Moses Freeman, Ken Smith and Russell Gilbert. Chris Anderson was absent. Afterward, Councilman Smith said, in light of the vote, ... (click for more)

Cold Case Unit Makes Arrest In Murders Of Brothers In Brainerd Almost 20 Years Ago; Detectives Say Brainerd Jeweler Rick Davis Tied To Incident

The Cold Case Unit set up by District Attorney Neal Pinkston has made an arrest in the murders of two brothers in Brainerd almost 20 years ago. The Hamilton County Grand Jury on Monday indicted 52-year-old Christopher Jeffre Johnson on two counts of first-degree murder in the January 1997 deaths of Sean and Donny Goetcheus. The 25-year-old Sean Goetcheus and his ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Picture a sold-out baseball game at Wrigley Field or Nationals Park packed with 40,000 fans. That image represents roughly the same number of women and men who die from breast cancer each year.  In Tennessee alone, an estimated 900 women will die from the disease in 2016. It is a sad statistic, but there is some good news: thanks to early detection and improved treatments, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Saving A Life & More

About 40 years ago I was at an afternoon football practice when one of those who was also watching from the fence was bitten by a bumble bee or yellow jacket or whatever it was and almost died from anaphylactic shock. Luckily an athletic trainer had an EpiPen, jammed it into the man’s thigh and it is believed to have saved the victim’s life. For years I kept an EpiPen on the top ... (click for more)