The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime for two individuals who pleaded guilty to the 2009 shooting of an endangered whooping crane in Indiana at the end of March.
Wade Bennett, 18, of Cayuga, and an unnamed minor each received a year of probation, $550 in legal costs and a $1 fine for the crime. One dollar.
Apparently the boys were out on a killing spree and managed to slaughter one of fewer than 400 whooping cranes left in the wild.
“They would drive around shooting whatever (animals) they saw, kind of like target practice. They had been squirrel hunting, and then they came upon a large white bird and just shot it,” said Special Agent Buddy Shapp of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The minor, who pulled the trigger, was charged with unlawful take of an endangered species, while Bennett was charged with providing false information, according to Bird Watch Daily.
A reward was offered for information about the shooting, which lead to a tip about the boys. Neither of them are being charged with federal crimes, including violations of the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Act, because there was a minor involved, even though that is not standard practice.
Sadly, the crane who was shot was with her mate, who was not killed. She was also the mother of the first chick to be hatched and successfully raised in the wild by cranes who had been raised in captivity.
These particular cranes were hand-raised at the USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center as part of Operation Migration, which strives to reintroduce whooping cranes and other birds in the east.
Baby cranes are reared by humans wearing costumes and using hand-puppets to teach them the skills they’ll need to survive in the wild. They are also taught how to fly by someone in an ultralight aircraft, which they will follow as they learn their migration route from Wisconsin to Florida (see photos).
To kill one of these beautiful and vulnerable birds is appalling. To give a fine of $1 is outrageous.
Photo by Steve Gifford