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Midwest Region

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2014


Contact:
Tina Shaw, 612-713-5331

Foster a Land Ethic That Would Make Aldo Leopold Proud

Large water birds identification guide courtesy of International Crane Foundation.
Large water birds identification guide courtesy of International Crane Foundation.

Wisconsin is home to a long legacy of ethical hunters and bird enthusiasts that dates back to before Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac of the mid-1900s. In the spirit of Leopold’s land ethic, we need your help.

You can help us, and our conservation partners, dispel the myth of the fabled “white sandhills” or albino sandhill cranes in Wisconsin. In a recent case, the claim of this myth lead to the loss of a federally endangered whooping crane that conservation agencies and groups have been fighting to bring back from extinction. Learn the difference between endangered whooping cranes and sandhill cranes, and do not take the law into your own hands.

The case in question dates back to July 21, 2013, when researchers with the International Crane Foundation based in Baraboo, Wisconsin found the radio-tagged whooping crane dead in a Waupaca County wheat field. Our forensics specialists conducted a necropsy at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory and confirmed that the crane had been shot and killed with a .22-caliber bullet.

Matthew Kent Larsen, 28, of New London, Wisconsin pleaded guilty and was sentenced in United States Magistrate Court in Green Bay, Wisconsin for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by killing a protected whooping crane in Waupaca County, Wisconsin.

During the resulting investigation, our special agent, working with a conservation warden from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, interviewed Larsen who confessed and signed a written statement detailing how he had shot and killed the whooping crane.

Larsen explained that he was on his family property in rural Waupaca County when he saw what he believed to be an albino sandhill crane standing in a wheat field on the neighboring property. Larsen said he left the property, borrowed a .22-250-caliber scoped rifle from a friend, and returned a short time later and shot the crane.

“Larsen was remorseful about his actions and realized too late that he made a grave mistake,” said Wisconsin Conservation Warden Theodore Dremel.

“With Wisconsin being the home of the reintroduction effort for whooping cranes, it’s a point of pride that folks take the time to better understand these amazing birds,” added Dremel.
Larsen stated that he texted a friend to tell him he had just shot an albino sandhill crane. When the friend told Larsen that he had just killed an endangered whooping crane Larson left the area. Larsen said he would not have shot the bird had he known it was a whooping crane.

“Regardless of whether Larsen thought he was shooting a sandhill crane or a whooping crane, they are both federally protected and neither can be legally hunted in Wisconsin,” noted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resident Agent in Charge Pat Lund, supervisor for Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri.

“Incidents like this undermine the work of a huge network of conservationists who have worked for decades to bring whooping cranes back from the brink of extinction," continued Lund.
It is important to clarify that any harm to whooping cranes would be considered harassment under the Endangered Species Act. If you or your neighbors are experiencing depredation of your crops or you have concerns about damage from wildlife, please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Service Program at 608-837-2727 for assistance and avoid making the mistake that Larsen made.

Larsen was sentenced to pay a $500 Migratory Bird Treaty Act fine and $1,500 in restitution to the International Crane Foundation. Larsen’s hunting and fishing rights were also revoked nationwide for two years.

We would like to recognize the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and their wildlife conservation work for their assistance in this investigation.

In 2001, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a cooperative of nine organizations dedicated to restoring whooping cranes to the eastern United States, began releasing young whooping cranes in central Wisconsin. Cranes were conditioned to follow ultralight aircraft from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to wintering grounds in Florida, returning on their own to Wisconsin each spring. Learn more: http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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Last updated: June 23, 2014