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Fish & Wildlife service confirms whooping cranes died of gunshot wounds

ALBANY, Ga. -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Friday that deaths of three whooping cranes in Calhoun County last month were the result of gunshot wounds.

"Preliminary results indicate that the birds died as a result of gunshot wounds," USFAWS Special Agent Terry Hasting said. "There's a lot of rumors floating around right now and they are not entirely correct. We plan on issuing a news release on Monday that will clarify some things."

The cranes were found and reported by hunters in Calhoun Co. on Dec 30, 2010. The landowner reported the cranes had been in the area for a few weeks before they found them dead just before New Year's Eve.

Necropsies are expected to be completed in about two weeks.

The cranes are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States. These three cranes were released in October 2010 with seven other first-year birds in Wisconsin as part of the Direct Autumn Release program.

They generally follow other older whooping cranes and sometime sandhill cranes during the fall migration to find suitable wintering habitat.

The birds were banded and equipped with transmitters and were part of the ultralight aircraft-led migration effort.

Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided to Hasting at 404-763-7959 (ext. 233).