Note: While this page has previously been designated only for Whooping Cranes, it will now, in addition to the whooping cranes, highlight several other important wildlife initiatives at the Refuge (including, but not restricted to, long-leaf pines, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and the milkweed project). As part of the Friends' attempt to update this web site, text related to these initiatives will appear on this page very soon.
From 2009 until 2016 St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge served as the winter home for young endangered whooping cranes. These captive-hatched cranes were taught to follow an ultralight aircraft piloted by costumed Operation Migration pilots on a journey of more than 1200 miles from central Wisconsin to Florida. Each spring, the young cranes, having learned the migration route, returned to the Wisconsin nesting grounds on their own. (photo above courtesy Lou Kellenberger)
Learn more about this project at www.operationmigration.org
Friends were honored to be part of that effort by raising funds and joining staff and other volunteers in maintaining the pen site and in tracking and monitoring the cranes. The project ended because, unfortunately, the captive-bred cranes proved unsuccessful in raising young, but some adult whooping cranes return to St. Marks each winter. Friends and volunteers are certain to be active in monitoring their activities.
If you are fortunate enough to encounter an endangered whooping crane on your visit to the Refuge please observe the following protocol to ensure their continued wild and natural behavior:
Do not approach birds on foot within 600 feet. Do not approach in a vehicle within 600 feet or, if on a public road, within 300 feet. Try to remain in your vehicle. Please remain concealed and do not speak so loudly that the birds can hear you.