Migrating whooping cranes prompt temporary closure of Clay County wildlife area

By: - October 20, 2022 2:02 pm
whooping crane

A pair of endangered whooping cranes have taken up residence in a south-central Nebraska wildlife area, closing the area temporarily. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)

LINCOLN — A pair of migrating whooping cranes has prompted the temporary closure of Kissinger Wildlife Management Area, north of Fairfield, Nebraska.

The closure is standard procedure for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission when endangered whooping cranes take up temporary residence on property owned or managed by the agency.

The closure will be lifted once the cranes have left the area, the agency said Wednesday in a press release.

“This temporary closure is intended to not only protect whooping cranes, but to also protect the public from accidentally disturbing or harming the birds, which is illegal under federal and state law,” said Alicia Hardin, the commission’s wildlife division administrator.

Kissinger WMA is about 1 mile north of Fairfield in Clay County, southeast of Grand Island.

Whooping cranes are protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Penalties for killing, possessing or harassing whooping cranes or other protected species can result in fines of up to $50,000, up to a year in jail, or both, the commission said.

Fewer than 600 individual whooping cranes now exist in the wild. The 5-feet-tall, brilliant-white birds migrate through Nebraska each spring and fall between wintering sites along the Texas coast and breeding areas in northern Alberta.

Duck and goose hunters can find alternative, pumped wetlands nearby, the commission said.

For more information on whooping cranes, visit

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.