KIOWA COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to investigate the deaths of endangered whooping cranes near Tom Steed Lake in Kiowa County.

One whooping crane was discovered with a shotgun wound by hunters who notified game wardens with ODWC.

Unfortunately, the whooping crane died while being transported to a veterinarian clinic.

Whooping Crane
Oklahoma Game Warden Jeremy Brothers approaches the injured whooping crane that later died due to its injuries.

Further investigation of the original crane’s location uncovered three more whooping cranes, bringing the total loss to four.

All of the deaths are being investigated by ODWC and USFWS law enforcement officers.

“This is sickening to see such a wanton waste of wildlife, and our Game Wardens are very eager to visit with the individual or individuals who committed this crime,” said Wade Farrar, Assistant Chief of Law Enforcement with the Wildlife Department. “Somebody out there knows something that will help in this investigation, and I trust that they will do the right thing and come forward.” 

Whooping cranes are an endangered species with a total population of approximately 500 birds in North America.

Whooping cranes are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act. A conviction for killing a whooping crane can carry up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine per person under the Endangered Species Act, and up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

Anyone with information regarding the deaths of these whooping cranes is asked to contact the Wildlife Department’s Operation Game Thief at 918-331-5555 or the USFWS’ Office of Law Enforcement in Fort Worth, Texas, at 817-334-5202. Callers with information may remain anonymous. 

Operation Game Thief, the Oklahoma Game Warden Association, ODWC’s Wildlife Diversity Program and the USFWS are offering cash rewards for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of these endangered cranes.  

Whooping cranes travel through Oklahoma during migrations to and from their breeding grounds in Texas. Most whooping crane sightings in Oklahoma are reported from mid-October through November. Whooping crane sightings can be shared with the Wildlife Department online.