Up to $5,000 is being offered by various groups for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal shooting of a Whooping Crane in Louisiana in mid-November 2019. It was the 10th Whooping Crane shot and killed in the state since 2011.
The crane was found on November 15 in the town of Elton, in south-central Louisiana. A necropsy determined it had been killed by a gunshot a day or two before being found.
The bird, a male, was about 18 months old and was part of the reintroduced population in the Bayou State. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has released 158 Whooping Cranes since 2011 to reintroduce the birds to the state.
The state’s population is currently estimated to be 76 cranes. The reintroduction marked the first presence of Whooping Cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950. The crane in this case was released in December 2018.
In a recent article about the Whooping Crane’s cloudy future, I wrote about the significant problem posed by shootings. “At least 40 Whoopers have been lost to gunshots in 13 states and provinces since 1967, most in the last 10 years,” the article says. “According to the International Crane Foundation, more than 70 percent of cases were not related to hunting. To combat the problem, the group has worked to raise awareness of Whoopers in Alabama, Texas, and Indiana. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has done similar work in its state.”
Over the years, several shooters who have been caught have been given light sentences by courts. In the latest example, in November 2019, a Louisiana man was sentenced to two years’ probation for shooting a Whooping Crane in July 2018. He lost his hunting and fishing rights for that time, must perform 120 hours of community service, and must complete a hunter education course.
International Crane Foundation President and CEO Rich Beilfuss, in a statement, said his group was concerned that “soft penalties like this … send the wrong message and do not serve as a deterrent to future shootings of Whooping Cranes or other threatened species.”
The reward money was offered by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation, the state’s Operation Game Thief program, the Whooping Crane Conservation Association, and the International Crane Foundation.
Anyone with information regarding the illegal shooting should call the Louisiana Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-442-2511 or use LDWF’s tip411 program. To use the tip411 program, residents can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the “LADWF Tips” app. The hotline and the tip411 are monitored 24 hours a day. Upon request, informants can remain anonymous.