Report whooping crane sightings; Prescribed burns

LINCOLN, Neb. – The entire population of whooping cranes in the Central Flyway is expected to migrate through Nebraska over the next several weeks. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission encourages the public to report whooping crane sightings.

Information on crane sightings is used to positively affect whooping crane conservation and recovery efforts.

Report any sightings to Game and Parks at 402-471-0641 or online at

Observers of cranes are encouraged to record number of birds, location, type of activity, and, if it can be determined, the number of adults and juveniles. Sandhill crane, American white pelican, great blue heron, trumpeter swan and snow goose are species that occasionally are mistaken for whooping cranes. Whooping cranes are approximately 5 feet tall and fly with their neck outstretched. Adults are all white with the exception of black wing tips and reddish-black facial pattern.

Whooping cranes that migrate through the Central Flyway often are referred to as the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population or flock. Cranes from this population migrate from wintering sites at and around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to breeding sites at and around Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta. In the early to mid-20th century, this population was reduced to fewer than 20 birds and was perilously close to extinction.

As a result of legal protection, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act, as well as conservation efforts, whooping crane numbers have increased slowly. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock was estimated to number approximately 505 individuals during the winter of 2017-2018. During the summer of 2018, 24 whooping crane chicks reportedly were fledged.

Game and Parks reminds observers that whooping cranes should not be approached. Harassing whooping cranes may put them at risk and it also is a violation of state and federal law.

The following states and provinces comprise the Central Flyway: Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

Prescribed burns planned for some WMAs, state park areas

LINCOLN, Neb. – Prescribed burns are planned on some Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife management areas (WMA), state parks (SP), state recreation areas (SRA) and state historical parks (SHP) where weather conditions allow.

Historically, wildlife habitats were shaped by wildfires that occurred throughout the year. Burns during the fall and winter can help set back undesirable plants that invade native woodlands and prairies, as well as other grass and wooded areas. Eastern red cedar trees, honey locust, buckbrush, sumac, dogwood, and other undesirable deciduous trees and shrubs can be managed with the help of fall and winter burns. Fall and winter burns slow the rate of burn and allow burns to be more predictable. Winds are generally more stable these times of the year.

Burning throughout the year allows habitat managers to spread their workload out and positively impact more acres. Prescribed burning, if used in conjunction with grazing, can set back smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass, increase diversity in grasslands and improve habitat for wildlife. Concerns for removing wildlife habitat by burning in the fall and winter have been proven to be unfounded. Burned acres often become more attractive to wildlife species and for some species this effect is immediate. The long-term effects on wildlife habitat are much better if prescribed burning is used as a management tool than if habitat is not burned.

Burns will be conducted this fall, winter and into the spring as conditions allow on the following areas:

Arcadia Diversion Dam WMA, Custer County; Ashfall Fossil Beds SHP and Grove Lake WMA, Antelope County; Basswood Ridge WMA and Danish Alps SRA, Dakota County; Bur Oak WMA and Twin Lakes WMA, Seward County; Burchard WMA, Table Rock WMA and Lores Branch WMA, Pawnee County; Clear Creek, Garden County; Davis Creek WMA, Valley County; Leonard A. Koziol WMA, Howard County; Lewis and Clark SRA, Knox County; Indian Cave SP, Richardson County; Meridian WMA, Thayer County; Osage WMA Johnson County; Ponca SP, Dixon County; Rose Creek WMA and Rock Creek Station SHP, Jefferson County; Sherman Reservoir WMA, Sherman County; Swan Creek WMA, Saline County; West Sacramento WMA, Phelps County; Wildwood WMA and Yankee Hill WMA, Lancaster County; Wiseman WMA, Cedar County.