On July 29, 2011 Sara, myself, and my husband Brac (also a department employee) traveled close to Simmsport, LA (West Feliciana Parish) in an attempt to determine the fate of missing female L9-10. As we had suspected, her remains were discovered that day in a corn field. A multitude of feathers, one of her colored leg bands, and transmitter were recovered confirming the unfortunate fate of one of our LA birds.
We had suspected that something had gone wrong with this female bird starting Memorial Day weekend into the first weeks of June. Data from her transmitter indicated a likely mortality because while the unit was still working the activity sensor started to indicate a lack of activity. Additionally, the GPS points were not changing/moving and the voltage of the unit was dropping. Our best guess is based on the transmitters’ last several generated points. We know that she was roosting across the road from the cornfield where we found her remains. This field had been previously planted in wheat. The next point generated indicated the bird was just into the cornfield and points after that had her slightly deeper in the field before they ultimately stopped changing.
As Sara said, it makes sense for the bird to be in that field when it was wheat or after the wheat had been harvested. However, it does not make sense for a healthy, live whooping crane to be in a dense, tall cornfield, so we suspect she was killed and her remains were carried into the cornfield. There are bobcats, coyotes, and apparently this spring even alligators in this area.
Due to the lapse in time between her transmitters’ last transmissions and our search and recovery effort, there will be no definitive answer as to what species of predator likely played a role in the fate of L9-10. As they say “timing is everything” and due to the floods associated with the opening of the Morganza spillway, this particular area was virtually impossible to access. Due to this fact, we are ultimately left with questions regarding the final days of this particular bird. Although it is an unfortunate outcome for L9-10, we are relieved to have confirmation as to her ultimate fate.
We would like to mention our appreciation for the cooperation and interest of the landowner and their ultimate support of whooping cranes and this project. We are glad to know that LDWF and the cranes continue to make new friends across the state and even though our visit to this particular property was not for the happiest of reasons, we very much appreciate that Louisiana whooping cranes are welcome in their neck of LA’s woods.
Written by Carrie Salyers