Reward up to $15K in whooping crane shooting

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — There’s now a $15,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever shot two endangered whooping cranes this month, killing one of them.

Contributors to the reward fund include zoos in Florida, Louisiana, and Massachusetts and Operation Migration, which uses ultralight planes to teach young cranes a Wisconsin-to-Florida migration route, said Adam Einck, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ enforcement division.

The birds were shot Feb. 7 at a crawfish pond near Roanoke in Jefferson Davis Parish.

They were a mated pair. Biologists were encouraged when the birds made practice nests last year.

The female died; the male is recovering after surgery at the Louisiana State University veterinary hospital in Baton Rouge.

Whooping cranes are among the world’s largest and rarest birds. Only about 600 are alive, all descended from fewer than 20 birds.

State and federal biologists have been trying since early 2011 to create a flock in southwest Louisiana by releasing birds raised in captivity. Fifty cranes have been released in four groups. The female’s death leaves 32.

Predators killed some; some had natural health problems; people with guns have killed four and wounded one.

Tips can be called to 1-800-442-2511 or texted to tip411, either with a free “LADWF Tips” app or by texting LADWF and their tip to 847411.

The Audubon Nature Institute, which operates the Audubon Zoo and other creature-related attractions in New Orleans, was among donors listed by Einck in a news release. So were Zoo New England, which operates zoos in Boston and Stoneham, Mass.; and, in Florida, the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Some donors are anonymous. Others are the Humane Society of the United States, the Louisiana Operation Game Thief Program, King White, Dr. Ben Burton, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation, the Animal Welfare Institute and the International Crane Foundation.