Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge have limited or suspended hunting to protect elegant, endangered birds
PRATT -- The whooping cranes are back. Each year, some of these birds -- the largest and rarest of North American cranes -- make a stop in central Kansas, at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, near Great Bend, or Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles south of Cheyenne Bottoms.

Currently, officials at both sites are reporting the presence of whoopers. Cheyenne Bottoms staff reported eight birds on Nov. 4, and an undetermined number of birds have been reported at Quivira as well as another small group several miles south. As a result, Cheyenne Bottoms has closed the hunting of sandhill cranes and white geese on the area's firing line -- and all hunting on Pool 3B -- until further notice. Quivira has suspended all hunting on the national refuge until further notice.

Approximately 260 whoopers will migrate from Wood Buffalo National Park in the Canadian Northwest Territories to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas this fall. This takes them directly through the center of the Central Flyway, offering Kansas wildlife watchers an opportunity to see one of the rarest birds in the world.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the birds' movements and lift hunting restrictions once they are certain the whoopers have moved south. For current information on Cheyenne Bottoms, phone 620-793-3066. For information on Quivira, phone 620-486-2393 or visit their website,