March 9, 2021 Updated: March 9, 2021 4:54 p.m.

This International Crane Foundation photo shows Gee Whiz, the first whooping cough crane to hatch at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Gee Whiz died on February 24, 2021, aged over 38. Gee Whiz was the fifth whooping crane to call the foundation at home and fathered 178 cranes. (David H. Thompson / International Crane Foundation via AP)David H. Thompson / AP

BARABOO, Wisconsin (AP) – The first whooping-cough crane hatched at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin has died.

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

Gee Whiz was designed through artificial insemination using sperm from the US Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. It was named after George Gee, who worked at Patuxent and collected the sperm.

Gee Whiz sired 178 cranes and was known for his evil disposition. Officials at the foundation, which is located in Baraboo, said he was extremely territorial and workers feared dealing with him for pecking their knuckles and fingers.

The spokeswoman for the foundation, Pamela Seelman, described him as “spirited and persistent”.

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

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