BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The first pair of whooping crane eggs laid in Louisiana in more than 75 years will not hatch.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said Friday that the eggs, spotted in a nest in a crawfish pond, have passed the 30-day incubation period. The eggs were found to be infertile after state biologists collected them.
State officials said that's not really a surprise, as whooping cranes typically don't successfully hatch chicks until they are at least 4 years old.
“Although this nest did not produce chicks, it is still a very positive and progressive step for the reintroduction project for many reasons,” Robert Love, the department's coastal and non-game resources division administrator, said in a statement. “This seems to be a strongly bonded pair, which produced two normal eggs, early in the spring and incubated them full term.”
The eggs had been announced in April at the North American Crane Workshop in Lafayette.
Biologists said they did learn about crane nest building, how the birds tend to the nest, and how they react to farming.
Louisiana began releasing young whooping cranes in 2011 at White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish in hopes of re-establishing them in the state. Of the 50 cranes that have been released over time, 30 survive. Only a few have reached reproductive age, and only three pairs of cranes have bonded so far.
Others have been felled by predators and health problems, while five have been killed or wounded by gunshots.
“From the beginning of this reintroduction, the department realized how vulnerable this species is to human harm, and knew one of the challenges would be to elevate the public's respect for this wildlife species,” Love said.