Population of endangered crane increasing on the coast

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Three Mississippi sandhill cranes are now getting a taste of freedom after being cared for by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a refuge in Gautier.

These birds were released into the wild as part of a conservation effort at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge.

After a few fumbles and a big fall, a few new members of an endangered sub-species of crane are now able to soar high above the Gulf Coast. Intern Victoria Thorpe, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says she's been observing the birds since they arrived from Florida.

"I pretty much check on the birds every single day, do field work, set up the pen, and fill feeders," said Thorpe.

Scott Hereford, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the cranes have been acclimating to South Mississippi in a pen for about a month.

"The idea is rear them in captivity at one of two sites, then socialize them for about a month. They were brought here, acclimated for a month, and released to the wild. Because of that, the population has gone from 30 to 35 birds at one point to almost 130 cranes right now," Hereford said.

He says the birds were born in captivity in Jacksonville, FL.

"One of the techniques to increase population is to release captive reared cranes to the wild and supplement the free-flying population. We've been doing it for years. This is the longest and largest crane release in world," Hereford noted.

"This is really exciting, because this is what we're here to do, re-establish the population, increase the numbers, and this is one way we do it is through these crane releases," said Thorpe.

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