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Print

Miss. sandhill cranes get first taste of freedom

December 11, 2013 at 03:29 AM

The Associated Press


GAUTIER, Miss. (AP) — Twenty-two young Sandhill cranes have been freed into the wild by their caretakers at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge near Gautier.

"We're letting our kids go," wildlife biologist Angie Dedrickson told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1gonYiq ) during Tuesday's release.

Dedrickson said she and the other refuge workers gather eggs from nests in the spring to send to New Orleans for hatching and rearing, so they get to witness almost their entire lifespan.

She said the new birds have to find their place in the refuge.

As the biggest group of youngsters to grace the refuge, the birds have been kept in four pens since their arrival last month from the Audubon Institute in New Orleans.

Wing restraints have kept them in the pens so they can get acclimated to the area. Tuesday, a group of workers herded and captured the birds so the restraints could be taken off.

"It's like the ninth-graders coming in," Dedrickson said and added that the older birds show them the ropes and can sometimes cause trouble.

Scott Hereford, supervisory biologist, said most of the time the juvenile birds don't know they can fly, so they just continue to walk around the pens.

Tuesday morning, the first bird released did not dawdle and took flight within minutes of being let go.

In a few years, the young cranes will reach reproductive age and choose a mate.

That's good news for the refuge, which is closing in on the ideal number of birds to create a self-sustaining population.

Sandhill cranes have a relatively long lifespan — the oldest ones on the refuge are 24 years old — and they typically mate for life.

Scott Hereford, a supervisory biologist, said unlike the five other species of Sandhill cranes the ones in Mississippi do not migrate and are adapted to the wet pine savannas of the Gulf Coast.

Hereford said the closest other sandhill cranes are in Georgia.

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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