Conservation efforts continue to re-establish the Whooping Crane population in the wild.
The species was pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat, but the state has made progress in recent years.
Since conservation efforts began in 2011, the Whooping Crane population in the wild has grown to 70 in Louisiana — with numbers now more than 800 nationwide — bringing about some debate:
Is the endangered species actually "endangered"?
In the Vermilion Parish wetlands, it's nesting and chick-rearing season.
Experts with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are working to keep track of the growing Whooping Crane population.
"It's tremendous progress in the right direction, but still if you think about it, you know, still less than a thousand individuals, it's still a pretty small population," said Sara Zimorski, a wildlife biologist with LDWF. "So whooping cranes as a whole are currently listed as an endangered species, but all of the reintroduced populations are classified as experimental non-essential."
At the federal level, there has been talk of re-classifying the Whooping Crane from "endangered" to "threatened," which some worry could loosen protections.
Regardless of the national classification, the LDWF will continue to reintroduce Whooping Crane populations into the wild.
"What we've found is that a lot of them left the marsh and when they left the marsh, you just have to get up in the air and you see a tremendous amount of water in the form of rice and crawfish fields," Zimorski said. "And so we have a lot of birds that have ended up spending time and actually living, nesting, raising their chicks on private property."
We reached out to officials at the federal level and they said any talk of re-classifying the status is just talk at this point. Before any decision is made, they will get input from conservation groups and agencies like those here in Acadiana and the rest of the state.
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