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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois
3225 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61802
April 8, 2009

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Contact: Chris Beuoy

Endangered Crane to Undergo Fracture Surgery at University Wildlife Clinic

Story update: The whooping crane died of complications secondary to the trauma around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8.

URBANA - A young whooping crane making its first migration from its Florida winter grounds to its Wisconsin summer home met with trouble, but a veterinary surgeon at the University of Illinois who is world-renowned for work with wild species will attempt to repair the crane's very severe leg fractures.

On Thursday, April 9, Dr. Avery Bennett will perform surgery to repair multiple fractures of the bird's lower left leg bones (tibiotarsus and the tarsometatarsus).

"The fracture is remarkable," said Dr. Julia Whittington, medical director of the Wildlife Medical Clinic. "It's broken into at least 10 pieces."

The bird's troubles were first noticed on April 2 in a field near Gridley, Ill., about 30 miles northeast of Bloomington. Five other whooping cranes from its flock that were migrating with it waited for three days before leaving their fellow behind. The landowner then brought the injured crane to his veterinarian, who contacted a local wildlife rehabber, who brought the bird to the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic on the evening of Sunday, April 5.

The cause of the injury is unknown, but whooping crane authorities report that powerline injuries are common in these birds. "It was a large force impact," said Dr. Whittington.

Post-operative management of whooping cranes is also very challenging for a number of reasons. It will be critical to ensure that the bird can stand on its own soon after surgery.

According to the International Crane Foundation, there were only 470 whooping cranes living wild and in captivity in the world in 2005-2006. Fewer than 90 whooping cranes belong to the same flock as the injured bird, and this flock is one of only three populations of these endangered birds living in the wild. The Wisconsin flock is overseen through the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership working with the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Wildlife Medical Clinic is a veterinary partner in the Eastern Whooping Crane Partnership.

The Wildlife Medical Clinic is a not-for-profit organization run by volunteers (mostly veterinary students) and supported by tax-deductible donations from the public.

The Wildlife Medical Clinic treats more than 2,000 animals each year and is staffed 24 hours a day. Injured and ill wildlife cases (except skunks and bats) are never refused. The phone number is 217/244-1195, and the Web address is