BARABOO, Wis. -- Tex, the whooping crane who needed a little encouragement for producing offspring, was killed by a raccoon that chewed its way into her pen.
The bird gained national attention earlier this month when by hatching its only offspring, Gee Whiz.
The hatching had been helped along by George Archibald, director and co-founder of the Internatonal Crane Foundation.
For six weeks, Archibald spent an average of 16 hours a day with Tex, working from dawn to dusk to bring the bird into breeding condition.
Included was a mating dance, which was captured by national television.
'I was attached to that bird,' Archibald said when contacted in California, where he appeared Wednesday on the 'Tonight' show.
Host Johnny Carson jokingly introduced him as 'the proud father' of Gee Whiz.
Archibald explained how Tex was raised at the San Antonio zoo and 'became imprinted on people. She wouldn't dance with cranes.'
A film clip showed Archibald dancing with the crane. He flapped his arms, squatted and hopped around and the tall, stately bird did a similar dance.
He said there are about 114 whooping cranes left in the world. The 'courtship display' the bird went through with Archibald allowed her to produce an egg, which was artifically inseminated. Archibald said it was a seven-year effort to get the crane to reproduce.
Officials at the ICF said the raccoon apparently climbed over the roof of Tex's pen Wednesday and chewed through flight netting to gain entry. Police were called to remove the raccoon.
Gee Whiz, hatched June 1, is 'a healthy, growing chick now close to one foot tall,' a spokeswoman said.