As snow geese begin to make their way into the state, hunters are advised to properly identify their target as whooping cranes could potentially be in the same areas.
Whooping cranes were observed this week north of Minot near Kenmare, and recent reports indicate most of the population is still north of the Canadian border and will soon migrate through North Dakota. With Kenmare’s annual Goose Fest in progress, hunters in the vicinity of the Upper Souris and Des Lacs national wildlife refuges should be aware of the potential for whooping cranes and snow geese in the same area.
Whoopers, an endangered species, stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet from tip to tip. Like snow geese, they are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of 2-3 birds, but are occasionally in slightly larger flocks.
Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location, and the birds' activity. Observers should also look closely for and report colored bands which may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.
Whooping crane sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office at Lostwood, (701) 848-2722, or Long Lake, (701) 387-4397, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's main office in Bismarck at (701) 328-6300, or to local game wardens across the state.