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Gee Whiz, Wisconsin whooping crane named after worker at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, dies

In this photo provided by the International Crane Foundation, shows Gee Whiz, the first whooping crane hatched at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. Gee Whiz died on Feb. 24, 2021, at more than 38 years old. Gee Whiz was the fifth whooping crane to call the foundation home and sired 178 cranes. (David H. Thompson/International Crane Foundation via AP)
In this photo provided by the International Crane Foundation, shows Gee Whiz, the first whooping crane hatched at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. Gee Whiz died on Feb. 24, 2021, at more than 38 years old. Gee Whiz was the fifth whooping crane to call the foundation home and sired 178 cranes. (David H. Thompson/International Crane Foundation via AP) (David H. Thompson/AP)

BARABOO, WIS. — The first whooping crane hatched at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin has died.

Foundation officials said the crane, named Gee Whiz, died Feb. 24 of natural causes. He was 38 years, 9 months old. A whooping crane’s average life expectancy in captivity is about 25 years. The oldest crane in captivity died at age 46, according to the foundation.

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Gee Whiz was conceived through artificial insemination using semen from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel. He was named after George Gee, who worked at Patuxent and collected the semen.

Gee Whiz sired 178 cranes and was known for his nasty disposition. Officials with the foundation, which is located in Baraboo, said he was fiercely territorial and that workers dreaded handling him because he pecked their ankles and fingers.

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Foundation spokeswoman Pamela Seelman described him as “spirited and tenacious.”

Whooping cranes are still working their way back from the brink of extinction. The population has grown from fewer than 20 birds in the mid-1940s to almost 850 birds today, according to the foundation.

May is Magnificent Whooping Crane Month, where at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, the largest whooping crane captive breeding program in the nation is underway. (Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)

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