The whooping crane discovered last week, identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service as #22-10 because it was the 22nd to be hatched in 2010, was released last year in Wisconsin to migrate with other adult whooping cranes, federal investigators said Friday.
It was discovered in the same area as another whooping crane that was found shot to death late last month; investigators consider the deaths linked.
That crane made its first migration to Florida in 2004, wintering there for five years until it started spending winters on the marshes around Weiss Lake, Ala., where the Fish and Wildlife Service said it was found dead. The crane had nested with a female in the spring, producing a chick that did not survive.
"This is a six-year-old bird, one of a couple of dozen that are old enough, sexually mature, and could breed," Liz Condie of Operation Migration told the St. Petersburg Times.
"This crane had a chick. Could this be any freaking worse?" Condie said.
Three cranes -– two males and a female that hatched in 2010 -- were found shot to death in Calhoun County, Ga., on Dec. 30.
In November 2009, a crane hatched in 2002 and led south by an ultralight was found shot to death in Vermillion County, Ind. That crane had hatched and raised the first wild whooping crane in the eastern United States in more than a century, according to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.
Operation Migration and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership work together in the effort to increase whooping crane numbers.
The cranes are tagged with transmitters and leg bands to track their movements. A variety of private groups are offering a reward -- now at $23,250 -- for information about the deaths.
"The amount of effort that goes into a program such as this -- hatching young, raising them, teaching them to migrate -- is absolutely huge," Tom MacKenzie, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the St. Petersburg Times.
"The loss of any of those birds to nonnatural causes is not acceptable."