Calendar featured photo of now-dead whooping crane

Scrappy Whooping Crane_231544

In this Feb. 25, 2010 photo, whopping crane Scarbaby, bottom left, flies with his mate at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — When Bob Herndon took photos of a whooping crane at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in January 2016, he had no idea that the image would be used as the January image in the Friends of Goose Pond 2017 calendar. He had no way of knowing that whooping crane 4-11 would also be shot and killed in either late December 2016 or early January 2017 in a field south of Lyons, not too far from the wildlife area.

“I’ve seen 4-11 a couple of times,” Herndon said of 5-year-old female bird. Most of those times were when he and his wife, Jane, traveled from their home in Sellersburg to Goose Pond and surrounding areas for a weekend of bird watching and fishing. “It’s a well-kept secret that nobody tries to keep,” he said of the fish and wildlife area. “And it’s a great place to go fishing.”

Herndon remembers taking photos of whooping crane 4-11 when he saw the female bird over a rise in the wetlands of the wildlife area. There were a couple whooping cranes close to the road, he recalled. Herndon took a few photographs and then drove by them to make them move back a little farther off the roadway, fearing a vehicle could hit them if it came over the rise quickly.

“It’s sad,” Herndon said of the crane’s death. He looked at the photograph of 4-11 every night in January, while it was displayed on the Friends of Goose Pond calendar. “You kind of get attached to them. You can recognize them from the bands they have on them,” he said, explaining how he learned to identify whooping cranes he saw more than once.

Herndon looked online at the International Crane Foundation website to figure out which birds he had photographed and to read about them. “They have personalities and you kind of develop an attachment,” he said.

Another connection Herndon has with the whooping crane 4-11 is that he works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the agency that is now investigating the whooping crane’s death. Whooping cranes are a federally endangered species and anyone who kills a whooping crane can face federal as well as state charges. There are currently only about 120 whooping cranes in the eastern part of the United States.

What makes the death of 4-11 even worse is that she had hatched and was raising a chick, known as a colt, last year when it died. Officials with the International Crane Foundation were hopeful that 4-11 would be able to raise another chick this spring that would survive and be one of the first wild-born whooping cranes in the eastern U.S.

Groups — from Friends of Goose Pond to the International Crane Foundation — have put together a $16,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for killing 4-11.

Again, Herndon feels like he’s somehow connected to 4-11’s case in part because he has been to the forensic laboratory where the body of the crane is now being surgically examined for clues to help discover more about how the bird was killed in hopes that it will help in catching the killer.

“I can’t help but be interested,” Herndon said, adding that as an officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he and other USFWS employees are “tasked with protecting America’s wildlife.”

“It affects us all,” he said. “You feel so powerless when you see something like this happen. The overwhelming feeling of everybody I’ve talked to is just shock that somebody would shoot one of these birds.”

Even so, Herndon is hopeful that wildlife species can rebound even if they have been close to being lost forever. He recounts seeing a bald eagle for the first time, saying, “It was a huge deal,” and adding that other species have come back after declining populations, including peregrine falcons. He’s hopeful that list will also include the whooping crane.Source:The (Bloomington) Herald-Times

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