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From survivor to mother: Whooping crane makes Wisconsin history

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Posted at 8:30 AM, Sep 24, 2020

A female whooping crane has made Wisconsin history once again.

Crane #38-17 became the first of her kind known to survive a Wisconsin winter, and now has become a mother, producing the first wild whooping crane chick to hatch and fledge from Horicon Marsh.

“The survival and successful migration of every chick hatched is important, so #38-17’s survival and maternal status is great news,” said Davin Lopez, a DNR conservation biologist who is part of the whooping crane team. “This wild chick represents several milestones toward the ultimate goal of establishing a self-sustaining migratory flock.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), #38-17 was transported to Wisconsin on Oct. 3, 2017 and released at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County in the hopes she would follow an adult crane and migrate.

She never migrated, and actually evaded all efforts to capture her to fly her south. Instead, she toughed out the Wisconsin winter.

"She has been very vigilant when we've seen her, and she stays hidden pretty well in the marsh, especially when it's cold," said Hillary Thompson of the International Crane Foundation.

In the fall of 2018, she finally flew south for the first time with crane #63-15 to winter in Illinois.

The two have returned every summer since and successfully nested this year at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County where their offspring hatched in mid-May.

“The reintroduction team and refuge staff hope to learn more from #38-17 about habitat choices and factors that contribute to successful reproduction in whooping cranes in Wisconsin and on the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge,” said Sadie O’Dell, a wildlife biologist with Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.

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