Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Citizen Tip Leads to Closure of Whooping Crane Shooting in Indiana

Closure comes in the case of matriarch whooping
crane shooting because of a citizen tip

Wade Bennett of Cayuga, Ind. pled guilty and was sentenced on
March 30, 2011, for his involvement in the shooting of a whooping
crane in Vermillion County, Ind. Bennett and a juvenile were
charged and sentenced in Indiana State Court, in Vermillion County,
Ind. Bennett and the juvenile received probation, fines and fees
for their involvement in the shooting of the crane. Voluntary
information from a local citizen was instrumental in closing this
case.

Wildlife law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources
investigated the shooting of the crane. The crane, last observed
alive by an International Crane Foundation (ICF) staff member on
Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, was found dead by an ICF volunteer found
on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009, in rural Vermillion County, Ind.

The crane, identified by a leg band, was known as the matriarch
of the reintroduction program and was the seven-year old mother of
“Wild 1-06,” the first whooping crane chick successfully hatched
(in 2006) and fledged by reintroduced cranes raised in
captivity.

In early spring 2010, a citizen came forward with information
concerning the shooting of the crane. The citizen’s information was
valuable to investigators during subsequent interviews of Bennett
and the juvenile. Both Bennett and the juvenile confessed to their
involvement in the shooting of the whooping crane.

Observations reported by the public play a key role in solving
wildlife crime, according to USFWS Special Agent Buddy Shapp.
“People who live in an area notice details that can tell us a lot,”
Shapp said. “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.”

Whooping cranes face monumental challenges in the wild –
mortality due to predators and disease, and the threat of continued
habitat loss. “The senseless killing of a whooping crane by a human
hand is inexcusable and entirely preventable,” notes Dr. John
French, of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research
Center, and a member of the US-Canada Whooping Crane Recovery
Team.

“With fewer than 400 whooping cranes in the wild, every bird is
important in our efforts to keep this species from extinction, and
this particular bird was extremely valuable to the recovery
program: this unnecessary killing is a setback. It is encouraging
there are so many citizens across the country who continue to
champion the whooping crane recovery and can help prevent this from
happening again,” said French.

“Our investigators coordinate closely with the judicial system
in an effort to secure the most appropriate penalties for the
commission of crimes against wildlife and natural resources,” noted
USFWS Midwest Region Assistant Special Agent in Charge Andy
Buhl.

In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are
protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty
Act.

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