The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the winter home of the last wild, migratory flock of endangered Whooping Cranes and is a focal point of ecotourism activities in the Coastal Bend region. While Whooping Cranes are predominantly linked to coastal marsh and flat habitats along a restricted area within the San Antonio and Aransas Bay systems, dietary freshwater is necessary when bay salinities exceed 15-18 ppt. Availability of freshwater during drought periods is often limited to excavated earthen ponds (i.e., stock tanks) in upland areas adjacent to fringing coastal marshes. Recent drought conditions have drastically diminished available fresh water supplies, creating additional threats to the recovery of the Whooping Crane population. By providing reliable freshwater resources through the placement of energy-efficient water wells across the landscape and proximal to Whooping Crane territories, stress reduction and increased fitness will be achieved.
During Phase I of the “Water for Wildlife” initiative, the San Antonio Bay Partnership is working in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which owns and operates the Refuge, to rehabilitate four existing water wells on the Aransas Unit of the Refuge. Funding is being used to contract with Carter Water Well Drilling, LLC to perform the necessary repairs to the well casings and tubing, install solar water well pumps, and install piping to convey the well water to a nearby pond, where it will be available for wildlife use. The project will also strive to create public awareness of Whooping Crane freshwater needs by generating publicity about the well refurbishment through an outreach and education campaign.
Generous contributions from the following organizations have made this project possible: AEP, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, Friends of Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuges, San Antonio River Authority, and Texas State Aquarium – Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Rehabilitation Fund. However, the project still needs more financial support. If you would like to contribute to the “Water for Wildlife” initiative and help install water wells on the Refuge, contact James Dodson at 361-649-1518, firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of long-term goals of the “Water for Wildlife” initiative is to repair and put into service as many existing wells as possible throughout the entire Whooping Crane wintering range, and to drill and equip several new wells in areas where territories are located but wells do not currently exist. Funding for Phase II of the water well installation initiative will begin shortly, but if you would like to donate funds now contact James Dodson at 361-649-1518, email@example.com