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A federally protected whooping crane has been sighted at Sloughs Wildlife Management Area near Henderson. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has also received a report of two whooping cranes along the Pond River in Hopkins County.
The whooping crane is a federally endangered bird that may not be hunted. All three cranes currently in Kentucky are birds that were released in an effort to establish a second flock in the eastern United States. The whooping crane at Sloughs arrived in late November and has been staying in a refuge section of the WMA that is closed to hunting and closed to the public.
Whooping cranes are solid white with black wingtips. They have a red crown. Adults may have a wingspan of 7 1/2 feet and stand up to 5 feet tall on stilted legs.
Hunters should not confuse these cranes with snow geese, another white-bodied bird with black wingtips. Snow geese do not have stilted legs. Currently there are approximately 10,000 snow geese located in the Sloughs area.
Whooping cranes are similar in silhouette to a sandhill crane. However, sandhill cranes have gray bodies and are smaller than whooping cranes. There are no reports currently of sandhill cranes in the Sloughs area.
The refuge section of Sloughs does have approximately 80 tundra swans which fly around the area. 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.