GUEYDAN — Fourteen young whooping cranes arrived in Vermilion Parish this week in an ongoing project to bring the endangered bird back to the marshes of south Louisiana.
The cranes, raised at facilities in Maryland and Wisconsin, were delivered Thursday to their new home at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area near Gueydan, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced Friday.
Whooping cranes disappeared from the Louisiana landscape by 1950, the victim of habitat loss and hunting.
The last sightings of the cranes in Louisiana were in the White Lake area, where a project began in 2011 to reintroduce one of the rarest and largest birds in the world, growing up to 5 feet tall with a 7-foot wingspan.
The arrival of the 14 new cranes this week brings the population of wild whooping cranes in Louisiana to 40.
A total of 64 cranes have been brought to Louisiana since the project began, but 24 have died, some from predators and others from gunshots.
Researchers expected mortality in the challenging and long-range effort to re-establish the endangered species.
“We are pretty pleased with the survival,” said Sara Zimorski, a biologist with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
She said some of the birds from earlier introductions are just now reaching the age where they might reproduce.
“I think this will be an interesting spring because we have several pairs that could produce eggs,” Zimorski said.
A pair of cranes laid eggs earlier this year — the first documented in the Louisiana wild in seven decades — but the eggs were not fertile.
For information on the whooping crane reintroduction project, visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/node/32933.