(UNDATED) - Indiana's Turn In a Poacher program has established a special reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the killing of a federally endangered whooping crane found dead last weekend in Jackson County.
TIP launched the Whooping Crane Fund with a $2,500 commitment, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately matched it with a $2,500 donation. The Humane Society of the United States and its Humane Society Wildlife Trust Fund also added $2,500.
"Whether the shooting was accidental or not, responsible sportsmen and women of Indiana will not tolerate the thoughtless killing of a protected species," said Doug Featherston, a TIP board member and representative of Indiana Quail Unlimited. "The TIP Citizens Advisory Board has unanimously decided to offer a reward 10 times the normal amount to motivate citizens to come forward with any information that will lead to the quick arrest and expeditious prosecution of the perpetrator."
The U.S. Attorney's Office of Southern Indiana has offered its full support in the prosecution of the individuals responsible for killing the crane.
The reward fund has been established with Indiana Members Credit Union. Contributions can be made by sending a check payable to Indiana Whooping Crane Fund, c/o Lt. William Browne, DNR Law Enforcement, 402 W. Washington St., Room W255-D, Indianapolis, IN, 46204.
TIP is a joint effort between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, sportsmen and sportswomen of Indiana, and concerned citizens. Through this program, any citizen can anonymously report violations of fishing, hunting and environmental laws by calling 1-800-TIP-IDNR (800-847-4367), and can be eligible for cash rewards.
A reward fund helped solve a similar case two years ago when a whooping crane was shot and killed in Vermillion County. A citizen's tip led to the arrest and conviction of two individuals who were responsible
Wildlife law enforcement agents with the Indiana DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the most recent shooting in which a whooping crane - known as "Bird 605" - was found Dec. 30 in southeastern Jackson County near Crothersville.
Whooping cranes are protected by the Endangered Species Act, the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state laws. The legal protections have helped the bird's population recover from a few dozen in the 1940s to about 500 in the wild today, but its status remains fragile. The whooping crane killed in Jackson County was part of an effort to establish an eastern continental flock on a migratory path between Wisconsin and Florida that takes them through Indiana.
"The loss of whooping crane No. 605 is another blow to the reintroduction program in that this individual bird was an adult with more than five years of life experience flying the same migration path," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland bird biologist Bob Russell. "We have lost, in essence, a teacher and mentor for young fledglings."
Russell added: "Wildlife crimes such as this undo years of time, energy, and private fund-raising efforts on the part of many partners. Our law enforcement agents will work in conjunction with our state counterparts to fully investigate this case."
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