Investigation complete on whooping crane killing in Indiana

Indiana Conservation Officers, with assistance from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents, have completed an investigation into the killing of a male whooping crane in early January in Knox County.

The Knox County Prosecutor is reviewing the case, and charges are pending against Jason R. McCarter, 21, of Wheatland, and John C. Burke, 23, of Monroe City.

According to the case report filed with the prosecutor, ICO Joe Haywood received information in mid-January that a whooping crane had been spotlighted at night and shot and killed with a high-powered rifle.

The ensuing investigation involved multiple law enforcement agencies, wildlife biologists and private individuals and provided information that identified the suspects and also linked the bird to a federal program to reintroduce whooping cranes in the eastern United States.

Whooping cranes are an endangered species protected by both state and federal laws. Efforts to save whooping cranes began after their nationwide population dwindled to 15 birds in 1941, according to the International Crane Foundation.

The Foundation reports there are nearly 600 whooping cranes today, with approximately 445 in the wild. There are more than 100 in the eastern reintroduction flock that travels through Indiana on a migratory path between Wisconsin and Florida. Roughly 150 captive-raised birds are used in the reintroduction programs at a cost exceeding $100,000 per bird.

The whooping crane shot in Knox County was part of a nesting pair that was taught its migratory path by ultra-light aircraft.

For more on the bird, see www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane/08/BandingCodes827.html.

An investigation into the killing of a second whooping crane in Jackson County continues. Anyone with information can call the Turn In A Poacher hotline at 1-800-TIP-IDNR.

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