Reintroduction of endangered Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) in eastern North America has successfully established a migratory population between Wisconsin and Florida. Eighty birds (47 males, 33 females) were released between 2001 and 2006, and all birds were tracked following release with satellite and/or VHF monitoring devices. By the end of 2006, 17 deaths (12 males, five females) were recorded from this population. Postmortem findings and field data were evaluated for each bird to determine the cause of death. Causes included predation (n=8, 47%), trauma (n=2, 12%), and degenerative disease (n=1, 6%); the cause of death was undetermined for 35% (n=6) of the birds. Based on physical evidence, the primary predator of the birds was the bobcat (Lynx rufus). Limited roosting habitat availability or bird behavior were likely prime factors in the occurrence of predation. Traumatic injuries and mortality were caused by gunshot, electrical utility lines, and an unknown source. The lone case of degenerative disease was due to chronic exertional myopathy associated with translocation. Available postmortem testing did not indicate the presence of infectious disease in this limited sample.
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Vol. 45 • No. 1