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Rewards offered in crane deaths

Photo by Terry Lewis

Photo by Terry Lewis

ALBANY, Ga. -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials said last week that a second whooping crane had been found shot to death at Weiss Lake, Ala., on the Alabama-Georgia border.

The second crane, identified as No. 22-10, was released last year in Wisconsin in the company of other older cranes and was found less than a quarter-mile from whooping crane No. 12-04.

Investigators believe No. 12-04 was shot sometime before Jan. 28 and consider the deaths linked. Laboratory results are pending.

Whooping crane No. 22-10 went missing around the same time that No. 12-04 was killed.

The deaths of the two endangered birds come on the heels of three whooping cranes found shot to death last month in rural Calhoun County.

In the Alabama case, wildlife officials announced a reward of $23,250, a combined total contributed by 18 nongovernmental organizations, federal agencies and private individuals, for additional information on the deaths of the two whooping cranes leading to successful prosecution of the perpetrator(s).

An additional reward of $20,800 is being offered for information in the Georgia killings.

"We hope the rewards may help generate leads from anyone who may know about these deaths," said Jim Gale, special agent in charge of law enforcement in the service's Southeast region. "We are working hard to bring the offender or offenders to justice and greatly appreciate any assistance the public can offer."

The cranes are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States.

There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 in the wild. There are about 100 cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population.

To provide information, call FWS Special Agent John Rawls at (334) 285-9600, or e-mail him at john_rawls@fws.gov.