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Authorities Searching for Whooping Crane Killers

whooping-crane-reward-flyer updateMUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (1/24/14) ― The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources are requesting assistance with an investigation involving the unlawful shooting of a whooping crane near Pond River on the Hopkins and Muhlenberg County line.

The reward being offered to anyone with information that directly leads to an arrest or a criminal conviction of those responsible for shooting the whooping crane or cranes has now grown to $15,250, according to Ed Ray, Kentucky Enviromental Education Projects, director in support of the Kentucky Coalition for Sandhill Cranes.

The following organizations have supplemented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reward in a in an effort to support the investigation: Humane Society of the United States, Operation Migration, Whooping Crane Conservation Association, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, The International Crane Foundation, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy Kentucky Chapter, The Environmental Resources Network, St. Marks Refuge Association, Friends of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Central Kentucky Hunting Retriever Association, and the Kentucky Ornithological Association. The reward fund continues to grow daily.

Whooping cranes are the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, with less than 500 living in the wild in the United States. Kentucky is fortunate to have seven whooping cranes wintering in the Commonwealth this year.

On Nov. 25, the International Crane Foundation received a report from a Hopkins County resident of a whooping crane that appeared to be injured. Initially, the wounded crane was still able to fly, but was extremely weakened, and was rescued on Nov. 27. Among other injuries, the crane’s upper leg was shattered. Attempts to save the bird were unsuccessful, and the crane identified as 5-09 had to be euthanized.

That crane, which was identified based on its release year (2009) as 5-09, and its mate, known as 33-07, had arrived in Hopkins County around November 14, 2013, where they had wintered the previous two years in the area northeast of Madisonville between Hwy 85 and 254. Both cranes had been fitted with radio transmitters which led investigators to the remaining carcass of crane 33-07. This second whooping crane was recovered in northeast Muhlenburg County along Pond River north of Hwy 70 on Dec. 13. Investigators believe both cranes, recovered five miles apart, were shot in the same incident.

Whooping cranes are protected under two federal laws: the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Penalties could range up to a $100,000 fine and/or one year in federal prison. Anyone with information concerning the killing of the whooping cranes is urged to contact Special Agent Bob Snow at (502) 582-5989, ext. 29, or the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources dispatch at 1-800-25ALERT (800-252-5378).

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