Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Loss of Three

I will admit that I didn't want to write this post. I've put it off until the Crane Foundation published their press release.

3 of my babies were found dead on December 30th in southern Georgia. They were shot by hunters while foraging in a field. Gouda, Fontina, and baby Saganaki (20, 24, and 28-10) are a huge loss to the program. The perpetrators haven't been found, but the investigation is ongoing. Thankfully, the other 2 cranes with them, Ricotta and Goat (23-10 and 26-10) have been seen alive in fields nearby.

This is the last picture I took of the group when they were still together near Snow Hill, TN. They were with their adults: 6-05, 6-09, and 38-09.

Notice how fascinated Ricotta is with 6-05's prize. I don't know if it was a fish or a big mess of river muck, but 6-05 kept pecking at it, picking it up and flipping it. At least it's better than the bucket he was playing with the day before.

That day, December 13th, they all flew off to the South, but I lost their signal in Chattanooga. I wish I was able to follow them that day. Maybe we could have monitored them a little better. Maybe the presence of my van would have warned away the hunters. I also wish the young ones would have stayed with the adults. When the adults (all bachelors) reappeared at Snow Hill a week later sans juveniles, I was a little worried that they got into trouble.

They weren't at the time. A local farmer at the scene of their deaths had reported the group showed up a couple weeks before they were found dead. They had been foraging around in his fields for a couple of weeks before the incident.

They were all good cranes. Fontina most of all: one of our best flyers. I know they've changed and grown since beginning their migration. But you tend to keep some personality traits. She was not only valuable because she was a female, but also because it seemed she kept the group in line. She didn't take unnecessary risks. I always thought she'd make a good momma crane: responsible, strong, and just social enough to know to find a mate. I'm projecting a personality on to her, so I'll stop. But I really liked that crane.

Goodbye baby Saga. You had so much youthful joy. I will miss your enthusiasm for life.

 (thanks, Aubrey, for the pictures of Saga)

Goodbye Gouda. I always thought of you as a goober when you were young, but you turned into quite a charming young crane. You will be missed.

And goodbye Fontina. I had trouble finding good photos because you were always close by our side. But you were beautiful and your memory will be cherished.

Thanks again, Aubrey.

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