Whooping crane makes summer stop in Vermont

Sunday, July 3, 2005

CORNWALL, Vt. -- A rare whooping crane is spending the summer in Vermont after mysteriously veering 800 miles off course on its migration toward the Midwest.

One of only about 400 such birds in the world, the 4 1/2-foot-tall female has been in a river floodplain in the Lake Champlain valley since at least June 9, spending most of its time on farmer Randy Quesnel's land.

"It is kind of neat, although I would be a lot more interested if it was a deer out there," Quesnel said.

Whooping cranes have been a federally endangered species since 1967 and are subject of an intense restoration project among U.S., Canadian and state wildlife agencies.

The Vermont bird is part of that project and is fitted with a tracking device.

The bird was expected to spend the summer at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, about 180 miles southeast of Minneapolis, where it spent the first few months of its life.

Joe Duff, co-founder of Operation Migration, an Ontario-based nonprofit that it is part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership program, cannot explain why the bird landed in Vermont this summer.

"We're not sure what she's doing there, but she seems to be selecting proper habitat for whoopers," Duff said. "We want to leave her there as long as possible and see if she can figure out her way back."

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