LINCOLN – Wilkinson Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Platte County has been partially closed to the public to protect three endangered whooping cranes using the area.
The cranes have been present since March 25. The partial closure of the WMA involves the eastern third of the property, the section between 280th Avenue and U.S. Highway 81. The closed area is marked with orange “Area Closed” signs. Additional areas of the WMA may be closed depending on whooping crane use in the area.
The public is reminded to avoid disturbing or approaching whooping cranes at any time. Harassment of whooping cranes may be considered a violation of state and federal law.
Concerns are heightened at Wilkinson WMA because of the presence of a power line near the area the whooping cranes have been using. Whooping cranes are extremely wary, and an approaching human will frighten and cause the birds to flee and possibly strike the power line. Power line collisions are a major cause of whooping crane death.
“We strongly encourage crane watchers to use caution and common sense when seeking a glimpse of these magnificent birds,” said Scott Taylor, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s wildlife division administrator. Observers are encouraged to remain in their vehicle when viewing whooping cranes.
Whooping cranes are an endangered species; their wild population totals only about 300 individuals. The entire population migrates through Nebraska each spring and fall between wintering sites along the Texas coast and breeding areas in northern Alberta. Most whooping crane sightings are from central Nebraska. The occurrence of birds at Wilkinson WMA is unusual.
Whooping cranes are protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act.
The Commission appreciates the public’s cooperation during the closure.