A Southeast Texas man was sentenced Oct. 27 to five years of probation and ordered to pay nearly $26,000 in restitution for killing two endangered whooping cranes in January from an experimental Louisiana population.
Trey Joseph Frederick, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of taking a whooping crane under the Endangered Species Act in May, was sentenced by a federal magistrate in Beaumont, Texas. In addition to probation and the fine, Frederick, 19, is prohibited from possessing firearms and cannot hunt or fish in the United States for five years. He must also perform 200 hours of community service.
Frederick faced a fine of up to $50,000 and as much as a year in jail.
The cranes were found dead in Jefferson County, located in southeast Texas, on Jan. 11. These birds, a male and female, were almost two years old and were part of a group introduced in Louisiana in an effort to establish a self-sustaining population.
Although originally released in Louisiana at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WLWCA) near Gueydan, the two whooping cranes, along with two other birds from Louisiana, had been in southeast Texas for more than eight months.
"We're pleased with the sentence and appreciate how seriously the judge and prosecutor took this case,'' said LDWF Secretary Charlie Melancon. "We are grateful to the state and federal law enforcement agents who worked this case and to everyone else who assisted to ensure that justice was served. We hope this sentence sends a strong message that this type of crime won't be tolerated. We also hope, in this tragedy, that we can further educate the public about whooping cranes.''
The whooping crane is protected under the federal Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts and by Texas and Louisiana state law.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is working cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to return the species to the state.
"It was incredibly frustrating to lose two birds in this senseless act,'' said LDWF whooping crane biologist Sara Zimorski. "But it has not, in any way, discouraged our efforts in bringing back whooping cranes to Louisiana. We continue to move forward with our work and are seeing positive gains.''
Whooping cranes are large-bodied, white birds similar to white ibis, white pelicans, and wood storks, all of which must be distinguished from legally-hunted snow geese. However, a red head and black facial markings along with a height of five feet and a wingspan of 7-8 feet make them very distinctive. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips and fully extended neck and legs, which extend well beyond the tail.
Juvenile whooping cranes are primarily white with some cinnamon-brown feathers remaining on their body, primarily on their head and neck. Their wing tips are black like an adult, but they lack the red head.
Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report their sighting to LDWF (http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/webform/whooping-crane-reporting-form
Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving whooping cranes is advised to report that information to LDWF's Enforcement Division by calling 1-800-442-2511 or using the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions. To use the tip411 program, citizens can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the "LADWF Tips" iPhone app from the Apple iTunes store free of charge. Citizen Observer, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender.
Donations in support of the cranes can be made through the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation by contacting Kell McInnis at 225-765-5100, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or visiting the Foundation's website directly at http://lawff.org/index.html
. Donations can also be mailed directly to the Foundation at P.O. Box 80378 Baton Rouge, LA 70898-0378.
For more information on the Louisiana Whooping Crane Project, contact Eva Szyszkoski at email@example.com
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.la.gov
. To receive recreational or commercial fishing email and text alerts, signup at http://www.wlf.la.gov/signup