TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) is asking waterfowl hunters to use caution when in the field due to the presence of an endangered species.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the KDWP posted a warning on social media for waterfowl and sandhill crane hunters in Kansas. The warning concerns endangered whooping cranes, which have been making their presence known in the Sunflower State recently.

“Whooping cranes have been observed over the last week at several reservoirs and wetlands in Kansas. Please be cognizant of potential hunting area closures and reports; even if an area is not closed to hunting, whooping cranes might still be present.”

KDWP social media statement excerpt

The KDWP went on to say that shooting a whooping crane can net you up to a $100,000 fine and is classified as a federal offense. This can also come with up to a year of prison time. On August 22, 2023, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said three Oklahoma men were ordered to pay $68,000 in fines for killing four endangered whooping cranes.

Whooping cranes are the tallest of North America’s birds and can have up to an eight-foot wingspan, according to the KDWP’s website. Fully grown cranes have white plumage with black wing tips and a red face, while juveniles may appear whitish-gray with rusty coloration on the head and neck.

The cranes travel over Kansas regularly in the spring and fall, usually from March to April and October to November, according to the KDWP’s website. They are most commonly seen in Rice, Reno, Barton and Stafford Counties. Critical habitats for the birds in Kansas include the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and all lands and waters in the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

To learn more about efforts underway to help whooping cranes recover in the wild, click here.