Whooping cranes face nesting pestsSubmitted: 06/10/2013
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Whooping cranes face nesting pests
NECEDAH - A bug bite often causes you a little itch, and a little discomfort.

For endangered whooping cranes, the bite of black flies causes something more serious.

It's making hatching eggs very difficult.

For a population already in danger, that's a big problem.

"The population has not been able to produce enough offspring to be sustainable over the long term," says Dr. Brad Strobel, a Wildlife Biologist at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin.

The refuge includes a handful of only about 400 surviving whooping cranes in North America.

We found some on a visit to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

But if something doesn't change, this endangered species could be in even more danger.

"It's pretty paramount that we start evaluating multiple different hypotheses and try to find a solution as quickly as possible," says Strobel.

Adult migratory whooping cranes are doing pretty well here.

A group called the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership re-introduced a migratory branch of whoopers a little more than decade ago.

The goal is to provide diversity among the cranes in North America.

Necedah had been a near-perfect nesting habitat for this newer group of birds.

"One of the biggest components that Necedah has for nesting whooping cranes is a large complex of wetlands. They prefer emergent wetlands that have sedges or grass-like vegetation growing up in them. That's what they construct their nests out of," says Strobel.

The adult population is low, but stable.

The problem - the adults aren't reproducing effectively.

Wetlands like the ones abundant at Necedah are optimal places for whooping cranes to nest and to live.

They sure need it.

Only a couple hundred of the species exist in the United States as an entire population.

But the black fly, this new pest, is something that's making places like this, places like Necedah, a little bit less desirable for many of the whooping cranes to nest.

Tiny black flies emerge into Necedah and pester whooping cranes and their eggs, literally swarm and bite them, during the incubation period.

This spring, just like years past, whooping cranes have had enough with the pests.

"All of the nests on federal property had abandoned. All of the 16 we'd been monitoring here," Strobel says.

While the eggs are then incubated artificially, it's not the same, and it's certainly not sustainable.

Several groups just finished a four-year study of the problem.

"Functionally, it comes down to three potential options," says Strobel.

One, keep the flies away.

Two, have the birds avoid the flies, either by going to a different space, or by nesting at a different time.

Three, improve the birds' tolerance for the flies.

"The most important component about this population is making sure that it's self-sustaining," Strobel says. "Being migratory, being able to avoid predators, and reproducing well."

Scientists still don't know which option is best.

They're hopeful they can help the cranes by next spring.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


ONEIDA COUNTY - Every second counts when it comes to saving a life. But in rural parts of Wisconsin, it can take paramedics up to 30 minutes to respond to an emergency.

A new bill in Wisconsin would require dispatchers to know how to explain verbally CPR over the phone.

When Sherri Congleton answers a 911, call she is often thrown into a life or death situation.

"You kind of form a bond with the person on the other side of the phone when you answer a call like that," said Congleton.

+ Read More

OCONOMOWOC - Authorities say more than 70 people were treated at local hospitals after an air quality issue forced the evacuation of Oconomowoc High School and the adjacent Oconomowoc Arts Center.

Western Lakes Fire District Chief Brad Bowen says low carbon monoxide readings were detected on some of the first patients treated, but officials could not immediately find a cause or source.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Golfers can't wait to get back on the course after our long, tiring winter.  We'll need to melt a lot more snow to make that happen, but on a Rhinelander-area lake this weekend, ice will be needed for golfing.

Fisher's Resort on Lake George will host the 13th-annual Ice Golf tournament Saturday.  Golfers shoot real golf balls on nine holes on the frozen lake.  The four-person scramble format costs $40 per team.

The event is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Hodag Sno-Trails snowmobile club.

+ Read More

MADISON - The Wisconsin State Patrol says it saw more drugged drivers on the roads and had a significant increase in drug arrests from 2016 to 2017.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the State Patrol saw a 20 percent increase in drug arrests during that time period, with fewer than 2,900 arrests in 2016 to more than 3,400 last year. A drug arrest involves the possession of illegal narcotics or paraphernalia.

+ Read More

HARSHAW - Rhinelander charter school students mixed in math with science, social studies, and reading projects on Thursday.

Northwoods Community Elementary School hosted parents to show off their work. Some classes did the math to plot out a vegetable garden. Others did research on Wisconsin counties and planned a weeklong trip there.

"I added decimals to count up all my rates for my bills, all the admissions to state parks, and renting," explained Oceana Patulski, who did a project on Door County.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Just like many small community courthouses, Oneida County doesn't have any way of keeping guns out of the building.

In response, on Tuesday, the Oneida County Board approved a mandatory active shooter training session for all employees.

"You have to keep your eyes open," said Oneida County Human Resource Director Lisa Charbarneau.

Charbarneau has learned not everyone who walks into the Oneida County Courthouse has good intentions.

"We do deal with not so pleasant things, whether that be social services, removing children from homes, we have inmates in and out for issues in the court," said Charbarneau.

The courthouse has an open door policy with multiple entrances open to the public.

+ Read More
Lincoln Hills bill passesSubmitted: 03/22/2018

MADISON - The state Assembly has put the final stamp of approval on a plan to close Wisconsin's troubled youth prison.

The chamber passed an $80 million juvenile justice overhaul plan unanimously Thursday that calls for closing the prison outside Irma by 2021 and replacing it with smaller regional facilities. The measure now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.

+ Read More
+ More General News

Click Here