orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

State News

November 16, 2009

Fewer whooping cranes expected to winter in Texas

(Continued)



Whoopers started late on winter migration and began showing up in the Coastal Bend a couple of weeks later than their normal mid-October arrival.

The tardiness could be due to warmer than normal weather in Canada, Muller said.

“Another thought is that a lot of them starved here last year, and they are not in that big of a hurry to come down,” she said. “We dont know exactly.”

The whoopers face a lean food supply again. Their prime food sources — blue crabs and wolfberries — have yet to rebound from the drought despite recent rainfall, surveys have shown, Muller said.

“So far it is looking dismal,” she said.

The salinity remains high in area waterways where whoopers forage. Crabs dont do well in hyper-saline conditions.

“It is slowly getting better, but we have not seen enough change for the crabs to start breeding,” Muller said. “We hope if the rain continues that the conditions will improve.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will offer supplemental corn if the whooping crane food supplies remain scarce.

“We are hopeful that the continued rain will decline the salinity level enough for the crabs to come back,” Muller said. “We hope to have a successful year, and if need be, we will supplement the food.”



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