Last of whooping cranes departs Maryland breeding program

LAUREL, Md. — The last of a flock of 75 whooping cranes has left a US Geological Survey site in Maryland, marking the end of a 52-year-old breeding program.

The federal agency said the last bird has been transferred from the Patuxent Research Refuge, the Baltimore Sun reported.

There were fewer than 50 whooping cranes alive when the breeding program began with a one-winged bird named Canus in the 1960s.

While still vulnerable, the population is now around 700, thanks to efforts including artificial insemination and biologists dressing in crane costumes.

USGS officials say its breeding research is no longer needed. The whooping cranes have gone to research institutions and zoos in Virginia, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Canada.