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Accession Number 5004671

Title Mortality and Survival of Mississippi Sandhill Crane Chicks

Project Description The endangered Mississippi sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pulla) is a non-migratory subspecies

known to exist in the wild only in southeastern Mississippi. The population of wild bred cranes is

now down to less than 20 individuals. In the past decade over 100 captive bred Mississippi

sandhill cranes have been successfully released on the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National

Wildlife Refuge. There have been documented matings, nestings, and eggs laid on the Refuge,

with matings occurring between wild pairs, between captive pairs, and with one captive member

and one wild member of the pair. These cranes have formed as many as 34 nests in one year, yet

no chicks have been fledging in the last few years. Some infertile and dead-in-the-shell eggs have

been examined at Patuxent over the past 4 years, but no clear pattern of loss exists. In the past,

most of the eggs in the field appear to have hatched live chicks, but the fate of these chicks is

unknown. We propose to use techniques developed in the captive crane flock at Patuxent Wildlife

Research Center to implant small radio transmitters in crane chicks. We will then follow these

chicks to document their survival or death. All dead crane chicks will be recovered as soon as

possible and necropsied to help determine the cause of death. We will then determine if

management factors can be changed to increase chick survival. Factors that we will be

considering will include 1) unusual disease prevalence among crane chicks, 2) unusual

contaminant loads in crane chicks due to diet or environment, 3) inadequate nutrition available for

crane chicks, 4) heavy predation on crane chicks, 5) unusual factors in parent rearing behavior, 6)

climatic conditions associated with crane chick mortality. Management adaptations will then be

recommended to improve crane chick survival and we will test crane chick survival in subsequent

years after implementation of these management changes.

Keywords chick survival, disease, grus canadensis pulla, mississippi sandhill crane, mortality, predation,

radio transmitter, sandhill crane,

Principal Glenn H Olsen, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: glenn_olsen@usgs.gov;

Investigators

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