Yulee’s White Oak Conservation Releases 3 Endangered Cranes To The Wild
White Oak Conservation in Yulee last week released three endangered Mississippi Sandhill Cranes back into the wild, bringing the world population of the species living in the wild to 130.
The critically endangered bird only lives naturally in one area of Southern Mississippi, and a lot of its habitat was lost to plantations over the years.
Director of Conservation Brandon Speeg said the birds were hatched at White Oak this year and raised until they were 6 months old.
“When a population of animals gets to that low of a number, you know they’re really at risk of extinction,” he said. “So being able to add new animals and new genetics to that population really helps with a chance for survival into the future”
Speeg said White Oak’s rural setting gives the birds a good chance at surviving when released.
“Our areas are back in the woods and actually mimic some of their native wetland areas so they learn how to hunt small things like frogs and fish,” he said. “So they have very little human contact.”
Since 1994, White Oak has bred and released 109 birds to the Mississippi Sandhills Crane National Wildlife Refuge, including the three 6-month-old cranes released last week.
“So when they go back to the refuge in Mississippi they can stay with that cohort, and that helps increase their chance of survival because they can help look out for predators and help protect each other,” he said.
At the national wildlife refuge, the cranes will live in an enclosure for about a month while they get used to the new habitat.
The breeding and reintroduction program is managed and monitored collaboratively by White Oak Conservation, the Audubon Species Survival Center, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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