Atlanta (CNN) -- Federal authorities have offered a reward for information in the case of three endangered whooping cranes found shot to death in southwestern Georgia.
The bodies of the cranes were found and reported by hunters near Albany, Georgia, on December 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday. They were sent to the service's forensics laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, where wildlife scientists determined they "sustained injuries consistent with gunshot wounds."
It is not known when the cranes were shot. They were part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, an initiative aimed at reintroducing whooping cranes into the eastern United States. There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 of them in the wild, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. About 100 cranes are in the eastern migratory population.
This was the cranes' first migration, the service said in a statement. They were banded and equipped with transmitters and had last been tracked in Hamilton County, Tennessee, where they roosted with other cranes December 10.
A $12,500 reward is offered by the service and other organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, the International Crane Foundation and the Georgia Conservancy. It will be provided to a person or persons who provide information leading to an arrest and successful prosecution, officials said.
In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by Georgia law and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Those wishing to offer information can call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources or the Fish and Wildlife Service.