Sadly we must confirm the shooting deaths of two of our LA cranes - L8-10 and L10-10. On Monday October 10th, Sara and I responded to a report indicating someone had shot at the group of 3 whooping cranes in southern Jefferson-Davis Parish. According to an eyewitness account, two juveniles stopped on Lyons Road in between Mouton and Guidry roads south of Jennings at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday Oct. 9. The eyewitness said they had shot from their truck and killed two whooping cranes.
Immediately after receiving the report Monday morning Sara and I traveled to Jefferson Davis Parish close to where Sara had observed these two birds as well as L1-10 just days before. (L1-10 was not found in the field and her current whereabouts are unknown at this time.) In collaboration with LDWF Region 5 enforcement, we searched the rice field where the eyewitness stated the event had taken place the previous afternoon. Much to our despair, L8-10 and L10-10 were discovered yards apart, dead from apparent gunshot wounds.
An agent with the USFWS was also present to help with the investigation. The birds were transferred from state custody to federal custody and will be sent to a lab where necropsies will be conducted to collect additional information and evidence in this case.
Upon further investigation, a local 16-year-old and 13-year-old boy have been told they are suspects based on the witness's description of their truck and other information provided to investigators. They haven't been arrested and no charges have been filed at this point. Additionally, they haven’t been identified by name. Details regarding the crime are still being determined including whether one or both actually shot at the birds, whether a rifle or shotgun was used and whether the birds were flying or standing in a field.
There is a great deal of frustration associated with this senseless act as a tremendous amount of time, energy, emotion, and (least important), money is devoted to each of these birds. I know the frustration is felt by each of the LDWF whooping crane staff and all of those across the country that have devoted time and energy to these individual birds and the whooping crane species as a whole.
Education and outreach has always been an important component of the LA whooping crane re-introduction project. Now, more than ever, we are asking for your support in spreading the word about the cranes and how to properly identify them from the numerous other water birds in LA fields and wetlands.
We want to acknowledge and thank all those who have contacted us expressing their sadness over this event. We also want to thank the USFWS and the LDWF agents who have done a great job thus far on this case. Additionally we are incredibly grateful to the eyewitness and the neighboring landowner who reported this incident and allowed us to respond so quickly.
We are discouraged over the shooting of these two birds but we are not giving up, now we just have to work a little harder and we look forward to that with continued support from the citizens of LA and those who support this project from around the country.
Carrie and Sara