SOCIAL CIRCLE — The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board passed a resolution Thursday supporting the investigation of the recent killing of three whooping cranes in Calhoun County.
Board members and the Georgia DNR Foundation also are contributing an additional $4,800 to the reward, bringing the total to $20,800.
"This generous contribution comes at a time when there are no real leads in the investigation," said Philip Watt, DNR Board chairman of the Wildlife Resources Committee. "We hope the additional funds will entice someone to come forth with new information that will help solve the case. We are proud to be able to show our support in this way."
The board resolution urges the Wildlife Resources Division to continue cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to use "all available resources to investigate and prosecute the individual(s) responsible for killing the whooping cranes."
U.S. service special agents are leading a joint investigation with Georgia DNR conservation rangers. The cranes were shot sometime before Dec. 30, 2010, and were discovered and reported by hunters. An examination by scientists at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory determined the birds had been shot.
"The DNR Board is putting its money where its mouth is," said Joe Hatfield, vice chairman of the wildlife committee. "We will continue to monitor this case and help DNR provide all appropriate resources to help apprehend the individual or individuals who shot the cranes."
Other recent contributions to the reward fund include $2,500 from The Environmental Resources Network and $1,000 from the Atlanta Audubon Society. The reward will be provided to the person or people who provide information leading to an arrest and successful prosecution of the perpetrator.
The cranes were part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States. There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 in the wild. This was the three crane’s first migration. They were banded and equipped with transmitters and were not part of the ultralight aircraft-led migration effort. Their identities were confirmed by recovery of their bands. The three cranes were part of a group of five cranes released in the fall. According to Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership trackers, they had last been tracked in Hamilton County, Tenn., where they roosted on Dec. 10, 2010.
In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at 404-763-7959 and/or Georgia Department of Natural Resources 24-hour. TIP Hotline at 1-800-241-4113.
For more information about the reintroduction effort, visit http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.