Date: 2/10/18 6:57 am
From: Jeffrey Short <bashman...>
Subject: FW: Greenwire: FWS turns to cell towers to track whooping cranes
-----Original Message-----
From: Bird conservation list for Department of Defense/Partners in Flight
[mailto:<DODPIF-L...>] On Behalf Of Fischer, Richard A
Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2018 4:00 PM
To: <DODPIF-L...>
Subject: Greenwire: FWS turns to cell towers to track whooping cranes


FWS turns to cell towers to track whooping cranes
Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder <
Blocked > ,
E&E News reporter
Published: Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Fish and Wildlife Service is tracking the 2,500-mile migration of the
endangered whooping crane in a new way - with cellphone towers.

Researchers can locate the birds every 30 minutes using cellular equipment.
Previously, using satellites, they could detect three or four locations over
24 hours.

"One of the advantages of that is you have the ability to transmit a lot
more data," said Wade Harrell, FWS's whooping crane biologist. He's based at
Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the birds' principal wintering

Using cell towers comes with some irony. Collisions with communications
towers kill an average of 6.5 million birds each year, according to FWS. But
information gathered from these towers could help save the roughly 400
whooping cranes left in the wild.

Right now, the agency said, 17 birds have small tracking devices attached to
their legs. Harrell said the project will expand over the next two years to
include more birds.

The data can tell researchers if the bird was standing still or flying, and
if flying, how fast. Researchers can also select which measurements they
want to receive depending on the season, the time of day or the bird's

"You can change the type of information you're gathering almost on the fly,"
said Harrell.

The data will help scientists learn more about the habitat use and foraging
patterns of the species. It could also tell them if the migratory birds go
out of their way to avoid structures like wind farms.

As with cellphones, calls are sometimes dropped.

"The birds at times are in places where you don't get a good cellphone
signal," Harrell said.

But once the birds fly into a spot with better reception, the missed data
are sent.

Bird advocates had been concerned about how the whooping cranes would act
when they returned to Texas following Hurricane Harvey (Greenwire <
Blocked > , Sept.
20, 2017).

Freshwater ponds on the refuge were inundated with salt water during the
storm surge, Harrell said. Luckily, he added, the area had a wet fall and
winter, which balanced out the ponds before the birds arrived.

Harvey also left a significant amount of debris in the whooping crane's
habitat, Harrell said.

"We haven't seen the birds interact in the debris areas very much," he said.
"It is certainly something we want to get taken care of as quickly as we

Whooping cranes were hunted to a low of 16 birds in 1941, according to FWS.
The refuge saw 431 whooping cranes in winter 2017, according to survey data.
Harrell began surveying the birds again a couple of weeks ago and said he
expects this year's estimate to be comparable to 2017.

Twitter: @ceceliasmith12 < Blocked
> Email: <csmith...> < mailto:<csmith...> >

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