Whooping Crane Killing – One Investigation Completed–More to Go

Reported by:  Whooping Crane Conservation Association

Indiana Conservation Officers, with assistance from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents, have completed an investigation into the killing of a male whooping crane in early January 2012 in Knox County, Indiana.

The Knox County Prosecutor is reviewing the case, and charges are pending against Jason R. McCarter, 21, of Wheatland, and John C. Burke, 23, of Monroe City.

According to the case report filed with the prosecutor, ICO Joe Haywood received information in mid-January that a whooping crane had been spotlighted at night and shot and killed with a high-powered rifle.

The ensuing investigation involved multiple law enforcement agencies, wildlife biologists and private individuals and provided information that identified the suspects and also linked the bird to a federal program to reintroduce whooping cranes in the eastern United States.

Whooping cranes are an endangered species protected by both state and federal laws. Efforts to save whooping cranes began after their nationwide population dwindled to 15 birds in 1941, according to the Whooping Crane Conservation Association.

The Association advises there are approximately 600 whooping cranes in existence, with approximately 445 in the wild. Approximately 300 are in the original western flock that migrates between Aransas NWR, Texas and Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. Also more than 100 are in the eastern reintroduction flock that travels through Indiana on a migratory path between Wisconsin and Florida. Roughly 150 captive-raised birds are used in the reintroduction programs at a cost exceeding $100,000 per bird.

The whooping crane shot in Knox County, Indiana was part of a nesting pair that was taught its migratory path by ultra-light aircraft. For more on the bird, see:   www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane/08/BandingCodes827.html

An investigation into the killing of a second whooping crane in Jackson County, Indiana continues. Anyone with information can call the Turn In A Poacher hotline at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association reminds the public that the Indiana case is just one of four cases. Three more whooping crane killing cases are still under investigation. One case is in South Dakota, one in Indiana and one in Alabama.

The whooping crane killed in South Dakota on April 20, was a member of the original wild western flock.  The migrating adult bird was traveling with two additional whooping cranes before being shot with a high-power rifle as it was standing in a corn field. The Whooping Crane Conservation Association will pay a reward not to exceed $10,000 to anyone who provides information which leads to the conviction of any individuals responsible for the killing of the whooping crane which took place on the afternoon of Friday, April 20, 2012 along 354th Avenue, approximately 17 miles southwest of Miller, South Dakota.

The purpose of all rewards is to encourage the public to share information they might have about criminal activities involving whooping cranes. Federal, State, Provincial, and other public law enforcement personnel, and criminal accomplices who turn “states” evidence to avoid prosecution, shall not be eligible for this reward. If more than one informant is key to solving a specific case, the reward will be equally divided between the informants.

Anyone with information should call either the 24-hour “Turn in a Poacher Hotline” at  1-888-OVERBAG (683-7224) or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at 605-224-9045 to report any information which will aid officers in the apprehension of the shooter. Callers can remain anonymous.

Eleven whooping cranes of the experimental Eastern Migratory population and non-migratory Louisiana population have been shot in the last two years. The Alabama case of January 2011 is still active. The Louisiana shootings have been solved by State Law Enforcement personnel and a reward will not be involved. One case is still active in Indiana. In Indiana the State has offered $2,500, the Fish and Wildlife Service $2,500 and the Humane Society $2,500 in reward.

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/