Rare birds flew into Kansas evening of Nov. 4; hunting limited at Cheyenne Bottoms, closed at Quivira NWR
PRATT — Twelve endangered whooping cranes were spotted by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) staff at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, near Great Bend, the evening of Nov. 4. Central Kansas is one of the most popular annual stopover points for migrating whooping cranes. In addition to the 12 birds reported from the Cheyenne Bottoms office, and another three were spotted on The Nature Conservancy property nearby.

In response to the sightings, Bottoms staff have closed the goose firing line. Pool 1B, where the birds are staying, is a refuge area. However, waterfowl hunters should be aware that other pools may be closed if the birds move.

At Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles south and east of Cheyenne Bottoms, another 14 whoopers were spotted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff. In response, the entire refuge is closed to hunting until further notice. For daily updates on Quivira's whooper status, go online to www.fws.gov/quivira.

Although most whooping cranes usually have migrated through the Kansas by the opening of sandhill crane season — Nov. 11 this year — whoopers are sometimes sighted into early December. Sandhill crane hunters — and all migratory bird hunters — should expect to see whooping cranes throughout central Kansas and be sure of their targets before shooting. All sandhill crane hunters are required to take an online crane identification test before purchasing a sandhill crane permit. The test may be found by going to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, and typing “sandhill crane” in the search box at the top of the home page.

Hunters who see a whooping crane are asked to report it to the nearest KDWP office. All hunters should check with public hunting areas before planning a hunt. The Cheyenne Bottoms phone number is 620-793-3066, and the Quivira number is 620-486-2393.