In rural Indiana a local citizen was convicted of shooting an endangered whooping crane and sentenced March 30, 2011. The conviction resulted in part from a local resident who called in a tip to the authorities. Reports from the public do play a role identifying individuals who injure or kill wildlife illegally. A special agent from the Fish and Wildlife Service said, “People who live in an area notice details that can tell us a lot. They sometimes see something or hear something that strikes them as unusual but not necessarily criminal. People might not realize that their observation is significant.” (Source: FWS.gov) Defenders of Wildlife and the Indiana Turn in a Poacher program combined their funds to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the shooting of the crane, which took place in 2009. The bird that was killed was the matriarch for a group of Whooping Cranes that were on their natural migration south to their winter grounds. It was leading them, with help from workers on the ground from the International Crane Foundation. They noticed the lead crane was missing, and found it several days after the shooting. This mother crane was also the parent of the first reintroduced whooping crane chick born in captivity. Shooting the innocent and very endangered bird is one of the most senseless acts a human could undertake. The number of whooping cranes left in the world is tiny and they are very much on the brink of extinction.
Operation Migration is a very delicate program designed to help the crane population recover and begin to take up its old habit of flying from Wisconsin to Florida and Texas seasonally. There are so few cranes left their migration has been dissolved, because the chicks born in captivity have no knowledge of the route nor of how to manage themselves while undertaking the very difficult journey. Wildlife researchers have been following them, or even leading them sometimes in small planes, in order to assist them in re-learning their natural behavior so they can be self-sustaining some time in the future.
If you are witness to a crime against wildlife, you might look online for your state’s conservation and natural resources department for a channel to use for reporting what you know.
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