A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett of the Southern District of Indiana says the office will not comment on the shooting death of Whooping Crane 17-02. Spokesperson Mary Bippus said the office does not comment on cases it doesn't prosecute, nor would she say why the office didn't take the case.
As we reported this week, the November 2009 shooting led to state charges against the juvenile shooter and his 18-year-old accomplice. The two pleaded guilty and were given one year probation, charged about $550 in court costs and legal fees, and were fined $1 each. Hogsett could have prosecuted the two in federal court under the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Special Agent Buddy Shapp of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who investigated the case, told me on Tuesday the U.S. Attorney's office declined the case because a juvenile was involved.
The prosecutor in Vermillion County who brought the charges has not returned calls seeking comment.
John French, research manager at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and one of the leaders of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, which oversees the flock that migrates between Wisconsin and Florida, said he's frustrated by the outcome of the case.
"Naturally, we are upset and disappointed about the small fine and the signal it sends about the unimportance of the laws against shooting any migratory bird, and especially an endangered species," he said. —Matt Mendenhall, Associate Editor
Photo: Whooping Cranes 17-02 and 11-02 raise their necks and call at
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in fall 2006. They were the first birds
in the eastern migratory population to successfully raise a chick.
Photo by Richard Urbanek/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service