Louisiana wildlife officials say they have no leads yet in the shooting death of a female Whooping Crane. The incident occurred in November in Vermilion Parish in southwestern Louisiana and was reported to the public on Wednesday, January 21.
The crane was found about 10 miles north of the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area, a 72,000-acre protected area where 64 cranes have been released since 2011. The bird was discovered just south of Zaunbrecher Road and north of the town of Gueydan on November 2 with an apparent bullet wound to her upper left leg. She was transported to the LSU Vet School where she was euthanized on November 3. A necropsy result received on January 8 confirmed that the crane was shot in the leg.
Up to $10,000 is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the killing. The reward funds come from the state’s Operation Game Thief program, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, and anonymous donors.
“Anytime we lose one of these cranes it sets us back in our efforts to restore the Whooping Crane population to its historic levels in Louisiana,” said Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). “These cranes were once native birds to Louisiana, and the department would like to see them thrive again in the future with a sustainable population.”
Anyone with information regarding this illegal killing 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” iPhone and Android app from the Apple App Store or Google Play free of charge. The hotline and the tip411 are monitored 24 hours a day. Upon request, informants can remain anonymous.
Of the 64 birds released in the Creole State since 2011, 40 remain in the population. The crane in this case, known as L4-13, had been released in January 2014. She is the sixth Whooping Crane found shot in Louisiana and at least the 22nd in the U.S. in recent years. Shootings have also occurred in Alabama (5), Indiana (4), Georgia (3), Kentucky (2), South Dakota (1), and Wisconsin (1).
The six Louisiana deaths have occurred in four shooting incidents. “Only the first one, involving two juvenile shooters, was solved,” says Bo Boehringer of the LDWF. “The other incidents remain unsolved.”
According to the International Crane Foundation, nearly 20 percent of all crane deaths in the eastern migratory population have resulted from illegal shootings. To reduce the number of incidents, the organization has launched an educational campaign called Keeping Whooping Cranes Safe. Spread the word. — Matt Mendenhall, Managing Editor