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Biology

End of an era: 50-year-old whooping crane breeding program coming to a close at Maryland's Patuxent refuge

End of an era: 50-year-old whooping crane breeding program coming to a close at Maryland's Patuxent refuge

When the nation’s most treasured fliers have faced extinction over the past half-century — bald eagles, California condors and the majestic whooping crane — scientists have studied how to save them from deep within thousands of acres of forests and wetlands along the Patuxent River.

The crane has defined that work ever since a one-winged bird known as Canus, at the time one of fewer than 50 whooping cranes alive, helped establish the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in 1966.

For decades, biologists at the center near Laurel overcame whoopers’ scarcity by dressing as cranes themselves, wearing costumes while rearing the birds. Through trial and error, they learned ways...

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