BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has announced a reward of up to $7,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed a whooping crane in November.
Whooping cranes are the most endangered cranes in the world.
The male crane, which had been shot, had a wound to the wing when it was found Nov. 2 between Crowley and Rayne. It was taken to a veterinarian but had to be euthanized.
The department said $4,500 of the reward came from private donations. Another $1,000 each came from the department's Operation Game Thief program, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and Whooping Crane Conservation Association.
Anyone with information about the shooting can call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-442-2511, through the LADWF Tips app, or text LADWF and their tip to 847411 — that's TIP411. Those who call can remain anonymous.
Louisiana has released 147 whooping cranes since 2011 to reintroduce the birds to the state. The population is currently estimated at 76. That includes two birds bought from a tiny group in Florida, where officials tried unsuccessfully to create a non-migratory flock — the same sort of flock that authorities hope to create in Louisiana.
Biologists estimate more than 10,000 of the birds lived in North America before habitat loss and overhunting nearly killed them off. The birds can grow as tall as 5 feet (1.5 meters) with black-tipped wings that span nearly 7 feet (2.1 meters). Their bodies are covered with soft, white feathers; colored skin on their heads forms a black mask and red cap.
Their numbers dwindled to 21 in the 1940s, including a handful in Louisiana. That's grown to 670 today — about 510 in the wild, the rest in captivity.