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Population dynamics of reintroduced Whooping Cranes

October 23, 2018

Because of the small size and restricted range of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo Population, reintroduction is a prominent element of the recovery effort to ensure persistence of Whooping Cranes (Grus americana). A fundamental objective of all Whooping Crane reintroduction efforts is the establishment of a self-sustaining population. Therefore, success of reintroduction efforts will ultimately be determined by demography: births and deaths of Whooping Cranes in the released population. We present a detailed review of the demographic modeling efforts for two reintroduced populations of Whooping Cranes: the Florida Nonmigratory Population and the Eastern Migratory Population. Both of these populations have struggled with poor demographic performance, and the Florida Nonmigratory Population is now nearly extirpated. The focus of our review is on the models used to represent Whooping Crane population dynamics and the major uncertainties that still exist about population dynamics in reintroduced Whooping Cranes. We also discuss the centrality of population models to the management of reintroduced Whooping Cranes, and the use of decision analysis to navigate multiple-objective decisions made under uncertainty. Development of demographic models, and articulation and testing of hypotheses about the causes of poor demographic performance in reintroduced populations, will continue to be research areas of importance in support of Whooping Crane reintroduction.