Wildlife agents work to ensure whooping cranes make a comeback in Louisiana

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

JENNINGS, LA (WAFB) - On a windswept pond west of Jennings, Louisiana, nature is staging a comeback.

"We just gotta wait and see if she'll stand up," says Phillip Vasseur, of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

RELATED: 12 juvenile whooping cranes released into the wild at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge

Vasseur is referring to is a female whooping crane. The female is the better half of just ten breeding pair in the state.

"One of the things we are really trying to focus on now, especially this time of year, is monitoring breeding pairs," Vasseur said.

It's Phillip Vasseur's job to keep an eye on her. Especially now, that her mate is gone.

"The mate actually suffered an injured wing," Vasseur explained. The bird will have surgery later this week in hopes of returning to the wild.

The whooping crane population in Louisiana dropped to a single bird back in 1950, not much good for repopulating the landscape. Researchers captured it, then released it in Texas along with the last 15 whooping cranes left in the world.

In 2011, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries began re-introducing them to the state. the goal is to get to 25 or 30 breeding pairs. But not all pairs are producing.

RELATED: $9,000 reward offered for information on shooting of endangered whooping cranes in Acadia Parish

That's why Vasseur and Eva Szyszkoski are trudging through this nearby pond checking the nest of another breeding pair.

"Oh yeah, there's eggshell. Oh, yeah, it's completely broken," Szyszkoski tells her co-worker.

"The problem is their eggs are not hatching. They either have a very high infertility rate, or something is happening to the embryo during incubation," Szyszkoski explains.

She's not too worried about this one. "I would say, because the male is so young, this is a pretty expected result," Szyszkoski said.

Still, she and Vasseur will gather data around the nest and collect the egg shells for analysis. They hope the information will help future eggs to hatch and bring the whooping crane population in the state to sustain itself.

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