Counting Down: The Last 110 Mississippi Sandhill Cranes

The Mississippi sandhill crane is making what could be its last stand against extinction. With just 110 birds left, 40 of which are in a captive breeding program in neighboring Louisiana, the non-migratory bird faces a challenging future.

The Mississippi sandhill crane population has dropped dramatically in recent years, due to a variety of factors, one of which in particular is caused or exacerbated by their dwindling numbers. The Associated Press reports:

The birds have faced an onslaught of pressures including habitat loss, high kill numbers by predators, and tumors that a U.S. Geological Survey study said "far exceeds that expected in other birds and mammals." Researchers think the tumors may be caused by a dwindling population of birds with limited genetic variety.

The crane also faces a loss of its natural habitat and an inability to adapt to the overly dense forests which remain around them, as well as a very low chick-survival rate.

A newly expanded visitor center at the Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge will open to the public later this year. They hope that educating the public about the cranes' plight will help to draw in the resources they need to keep the species alive.

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