Minnesota hunter charged after shooting tundra swan

St. Paul — A Baudette man faces fines and restitution of $375 for shooting and killing a Tundra swan in Lake of the Woods County Oct. 23. Steven L. Theis, 26, was charged with shooting a nongame migratory bird, a misdemeanor.

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer received a Turn in Poachers (TIP) call that a swan had been shot by two individuals duck hunting in a boat on Four Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods.

When the men returned to shore, they were told by Capt. Jim Dunn that there had been a complaint that they had shot a swan, and he asked them where the swan was located.

Theis admitted to shooting the swan and later throwing it into the weeds when he learned that swans are a federally protected species and not legal to shoot.

“He explained to me that the swan, that he thought was a snow goose, had landed about 100 yards from his duck decoys,” said Dunn. “He honked at it a couple of times on his goose call, and the swan took off from the water and flew directly at him and swung around his end of the boat. As it did so, he shot it.”

Theis said he recovered the swan and asked a person if a snow goose is bigger than a Canada goose. The person replied no, and told him to get rid of it so he threw the bird into the grass. Conservation officers recovered the swan inside a weed bed the following day.

Every fall, DNR officials warn waterfowl hunters to avoid mistakenly shooting federally protected swans. Notices are printed in Minnesota’s waterfowl hunting regulations and warning signs are posted on some lakes frequented by swans.

Despite those admonitions, a handful of swans still are shot each year.

“There’s really no excuse for shooting one,” Dunn said, “because Minnesota hunters won’t encounter any other waterfowl as large as a trumpeter or tundra swan, two of the largest waterfowl in the world.”

Tundra swans weigh 16 to 23 pounds, are 52 to 58 inches long with wingspans up to 5.5 feet and a long neck.

Snow geese, in comparison, are smaller than the familiar Canada geese that populate the state. They average 25 to 31 inches long and weigh only 6 or 7 pounds.

“It’s like comparing a Volkswagen to a Cadillac," Dunn said.

Also, tundra swans are all white with a black bill, while snow geese have distinct jet black tips on their wings and a pink bill.

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