Six whooping cranes reported in Kentucky; species is off-limits to hunting

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Wildlife biologists have confirmed the presence of five federally protected whooping cranes in Hopkins County and received a report of a sixth in Barren County.

The whooping crane is a federally endangered bird that may not be hunted.

Whooping cranes are solid white with black wingtips. They have a red crown. Adults may have a wingspan of 7 ½ feet and stand up to 5 feet tall on stilted legs.

Whooping cranes are similar in silhouette to a sandhill crane. However, sandhill cranes have gray bodies and are smaller than whooping cranes. Kentucky’s sandhill crane hunting season begins Dec. 14 and continues through Jan. 12, or until 400 birds are taken.

People drawn for a sandhill crane quota hunt must pass an online bird identification test before they may receive a permit. As part of its policy, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources provides the public with notification about the presence of whooping cranes in the state when sandhill crane season is open or about to begin.

Wildlife biologists counted 9,200 sandhill cranes in Barren County on Monday. Officials were not able to confirm the report Saturday of a whooping crane in the area, however. Hunters should be aware of other large-bodied birds currently in the state.

Sloughs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Henderson County holds approximately 8,000 snow geese. Another 5,000 snow geese also are present at Ballard WMA in Ballard County. Snow geese are white-bodied birds with black wingtips. They do not have stilted legs.

Wildlife biologists also have received reports of tundra swans in central Hardin County, Sloughs WMA, Lake Cumberland and Barren River. Tundra swans are large, solid white birds with wingspans approaching 7 feet. They do not have stilted legs. Tundra swans may not be hunted in Kentucky.

Hunters should always be sure of their target before firing a gun, regardless of the species being hunted.


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