State conservation officials have partially closed Wilkinson Wildlife Management Area in Platte County to protect three endangered whooping cranes in the area.
Whooping cranes arrived at Wilkinson on March 25th.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has closed the eastern third of the management area, the section between 280th Avenue and U.S. Highway 81. The closed area is marked with orange “Area Closed” signs. Other parts of the area could be closed in the future.
Members of the public coming to Wilkinson to observe the cranes need to make sure not to disturb the cranes. The presence of a power line near the whooping cranes has heightened concern. Game and Parks notes whooping cranes are extremely wary. People could scare them and cause them to fly into the power line. Power line collisions are a major cause of whooping crane death, according to Game and Parks.
“We strongly encourage crane watchers to use caution and common sense when seeking a glimpse of these magnificent birds,” said Scott Taylor, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s wildlife division administrator, in written statement released by Game and Parks.
Observers are encouraged to remain in their vehicle when viewing whooping cranes.
Game and Parks says whooping cranes are an endangered species; their wild population totals only about 300 individuals. The entire population migrates through Nebraska each spring and fall between wintering sites along the Texas coast and breeding areas in northern Alberta. Most whooping crane sightings are from central Nebraska.
It is unusual for cranes to fly into Wilkinson WMA.
Whooping cranes are protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act.