Great Bend A whooping crane shot near the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge last month died Thursday at a center in Maryland where it had been sent to recuperate.
Farmers found two of the endangered birds on Nov. 6 in a field southeast of Great Bend. One died the next week at the Kansas State University Veterinary Medical Center in Manhattan. The other was transferred to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md.
Glenn Olsen, a veterinarian there, said the bird being treated in Maryland had improved and had been able to eat on its own. But then it developed a serious respiratory problem and died overnight.
The bird's carcass will be sent to the National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., for tests, Olsen said.
The crane had a broken wing and shotgun pellet wounds. Olsen said wings and the respiratory system are closely linked, and the infection was a secondary result of the gunshot wounds.
Central Kansas is a stopover point for whooping cranes on annual migrations between nesting grounds in northern Canada and wintering grounds in Texas. Only about 300 of the endangered birds remain in the wild.
The hunters who shot the two cranes about three miles east of the wildlife refuge told investigators they mistook them for sandhill cranes, which are not protected.
Ken Kessler, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said no charges have been filed. Agents were preparing a report for federal prosecutors. Punishment for shooting whooping cranes can range to up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.