Department of Fish and Wildlife
Whooping cranes reported in Kentucky; species is off-limits to hunting
Ky. – Wildlife biologists have
confirmed the presence of five federally protected whooping cranes in Hopkins
County and a sixth in Barren County. In
addition to these confirmed reports, whooping cranes have been seen in more
than a dozen counties across Kentucky in the last two weeks.
Biologists with the Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources caution hunters to be vigilant for
the possibility of whooping cranes being present in areas being hunted.
The whooping crane is a federally
endangered bird that may not be hunted. The Eastern Population of whooping
cranes migrates between Wisconsin and Florida with their main migration
corridor taking them through west-central Kentucky. There are approximately 100
whooping cranes in this population.
Whooping cranes are solid white with
black wingtips. They have a red crown. Adults may have a wingspan of 7 ½ feet
and stand up to 5 feet tall on stilted legs. Juvenile birds are similar to the
adults, but will have patches of brown or tan mixed in with the white. Both
adult and juvenile whooping cranes are currently present in Kentucky.
Whooping cranes are similar in
silhouette to sandhill cranes. However, sandhill cranes have gray bodies and
are smaller than whooping cranes. Whooping cranes may associate with sandhill
cranes so caution must be used while hunting sandhill cranes. Kentucky’s
sandhill crane hunting season begins Dec. 13 and continues through Jan. 11, or
until 400 sandhill cranes have been taken.
Hunters should be aware of other
large-bodied birds which may appear similar to whooping cranes.
Large flocks of snow geese may be
present in western areas of Kentucky and small groups may be present statewide.
Snow geese are white-bodied birds with black wingtips. They do not have stilted
Tundra swans and trumpeter swans have also
been reported across Kentucky. Swans are large, solid white birds with
wingspans approaching 7 feet. They do not have stilted legs. Swans may not be
hunted in Kentucky.
Hunters should always be sure of
their target before firing a gun, regardless of the species being hunted.