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Ten greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis tabida), trained to enter and ride in a specially equipped truck, were transported at 80? days of age from their rearing site at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Patuxent), Maryland, to a reintroduction site located within the species? former breeding range in northern Arizona. After 5 additional weeks of training, these juvenile cranes were led south ca 600 km to a wintering area on the Arizona/Mexico border. Nine of the 10 survived the trek, 495 km of which was flown, although only a few cranes flew every stage of the route. Their longest flight was 77 km. Major problems during the migration were power line collisions (three, one fatal), eagle attacks (none fatal), and overheating (when air temperatures exceeded ca 25?C). All cranes that entered training quickly learned to follow the truck, and their tenacity when following under unfavorable conditions (e.g., poor light, extreme dust, or heat) showed that cranes could consistently be led over long distances. We cannot predict if the cranes will retrace their route unassisted when adults, but 2 cranes returned 130 km to the starting point of the migration after the flock was scattered by an eagle during our migration south. Three other cranes were recovered 55 km from the attack site and on course toward the starting point.
Additional Publication Details
Results of an experiment to lead cranes on migration behind motorized ground vehicles