(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana Conservation Officers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are seeking public help in their ongoing investigation into the illegal killing of a whooping crane more than a year ago in Jackson County.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is encouraging anyone with information about the 2011 shooting to call its Turn in a Poacher program. Whooping cranes are protected by the Endangered Species Act and other federal and state laws. Officials have offered rewards totaling $7,500.
The whooping crane - known as "Bird 605" - was found Dec. 30, 2011, in southeastern Jackson County near Crothersville.
Investigators say X-rays show the bird suffered a fatal shotgun wound. The bird was part of an effort to establish a flock on a migratory path between Wisconsin and Florida. Whooping cranes are North America's largest birds, standing over 5 feet tall.
Investigators encourage anyone with information about the incident to contact Turn-IN-A-Poacher by calling 1-800-TIP-IDNR (1-800-847-4367).
TIP is a joint effort between the Indiana DNR, sportsmen and sportswomen of Indiana, and concerned citizens. Through this program, any citizen can anonymously report violations of fishing, hunting and environmental laws and be eligible for cash rewards.
The U.S. Attorney's Office of Southern Indiana has offered its full support in the prosecution of those responsible for killing the crane.
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 the species' 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 the birds 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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