Man Indicted For Killing Whooping Crane and Witness Tampering in South Dakota

June 18, 2012

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Miller, South Dakota, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Witness Tampering.

Jeff G. Blachford (Facebook Profile), age 25, was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 12, 2012. He appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on June 15, 2012, and pled not guilty to the indictment. The maximum penalty upon conviction is 20 years’ custody, a $250,000 fine, or both; not more than 3 years of supervised release; and a $100 special assessment. Restitution may also be ordered.

The charges relate to allegations that in April 2012, Blachford shot and killed an endangered whooping crane and one hawk in Hand County, approximately 17 miles southwest of Miller, South Dakota. Blachford is further alleged to have corruptly persuaded a witness to withhold information from law enforcement officials. The charges are merely accusations, and Blachford is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in the world with a total population of approximately 600 individuals. The whooping crane killed in this investigation was one of about 300 endangered cranes that migrate from wintering grounds along the gulf coast of Texas to the Woods Buffalo State Park located in Alberta and the Northwest Territories of Canada. This population of whooping cranes is the only self-sustaining population in the world.

The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and South Dakota Game Fish and Parks. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Meghan N. Dilges. Blachford was released on bond pending trial.

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association is very pleased with the indictment by the federal grand jury. However, the Association cautions that the case must still be brought to trial and a conviction made before justice is served. The Association has a $10,000 Reward for the “conviction” of the person(s) responsible for the senseless killing of the whooping crane. Contributions to the Reward Fund are stil needed. The public is urged to donate to the fund to help convict this and other whooper killings.

Donations (which are tax-deductible) are being requested for the Whooping Crane Conservation Association’s Reward  Account. The public is encouraged to donate to this fund. Donations should be mailed to Whooping Crane Conservation Association, 2139 Kennedy Avenue, Loveland, CO, USA  80538 or to donate by credit card click on the link:  http://whoopingcrane.com/whooping-crane-shot-10000-reward/