Letter: Crane shootings undermine effort

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has been working to restore a wild whooping crane population in Louisiana. Fifty juvenile cranes, brought to Louisiana in four separate cohort groups, have been released at LDWF’s White Lake property near Gueydan since 2011.

I read with great interest professor James Wilkins’ letter of Feb. 26 lamenting the plight of our experimental population that has been reduced by 20 percent over the past three years by the careless actions of those with no regard for a wildlife species that is not a legally hunted game bird.

We share his outrage.

Prior to last month’s shooting, 33 of those birds were alive and well on the landscape in central and southwest Louisiana.

Some had been lost to predators, some to naturally occurring health problems, one to a power line strike, but too many to humans with no regard for the consequences of their actions.

Five in total have been confirmed as victims of random shooting incidents since the second of the two birds shot Feb. 6 had to be euthanized.

Around the U.S., 18 whooping cranes have been confirmed as shot since 2009, including the five from our state.

These incidents have involved birds in eight states. So, we are not alone in this situation.

Shooting numbers may be even higher because most whooping cranes in other states are not transmitter-equipped, making discovery more difficult than our Louisiana cranes.

I know there are thousands of avid waterfowl and migratory bird hunters who conscientiously follow the state and federal game bird regulations now in place.

I believe no seasoned hunter would knowingly shoot a nongame species standing still in the marsh. Nearly all crane shootings nationally have occurred during nonhunting, malicious indiscriminant situations.

But there are some among us who aren’t getting the message and don’t regret stealing their natural beauty from the rest of society.

If you aren’t sure what a whooping crane looks like or know someone who isn’t sure, visit LDWF’s website and click on the Whooping Crane Information link to view all the photos and information you’ll need to get quickly educated.

LDWF’s Enforcement Division is looking for leads regarding the most recent incident and your help is needed if you have any information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of those who committed this malicious act.

A potential $20,000 reward is being offered.

The perpetrators violated the federal Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts and state law.

Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving whooping cranes is advised to report that information to LDWF’s Enforcement Division by calling (800) 442-2511.

Robert Barham

secretary, La. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Baton Rouge