Five Whooping Cranes in the reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) have been victims of shootings in Indiana. In late 2009, the first female crane to successfully hatch and raise a wild chick in the U.S. in more than a century was killed in the first shooting. Crane 17-02 was 7 years old when she was shot. She, along with her mate 11-02, became the first pair in the EMP to successfully raise a crane chick to fledge. Their chick is W1-06 (the ‘W’ indicates Wild). She is now 10 years old and is paired with male #1-10. The two have a summer territory at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
On December 30, 2011, male Whooping Crane #6-05 was found shot to death in Jackson County, Indiana. His carcass was found by a photographer near the Muscatatuck River basin about 40 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. This case remains open with a reward of $7500 being offered for information leading to the arrest of the individual responsible.
In January 2012 male Whooping crane 27-08 became the third confirmed shooting death of a Whooping Crane in Indiana. John Burke and Jason McCarter of Knox County pleaded guilty and were sentenced on November 21, 2012. Their sentence included three years probation and a donation of $5000 to the International Crane Foundation.
In February 2014, the remains of female Whooping Crane 35-09 were found partially buried in Greene County, Indiana by conservation officers.
“It was obvious somebody shot it,” Officer Mike Gregg said at that time. “We believe there were hunters in the area and that once they shot it they buried it, realizing they had made a mistake.”
Sadly, we now have gunshot victim number five in the Hoosier State. Female Whooping Crane #4-11 was found shot in Greene County over the first weekend of 2017. This valuable female had reached breeding age and hatched her first chick last summer.
Of these five cases, three occurred as people were ringing in a New Year. Is it customary for people in Indiana to take their firearms out for the New Year’s holiday and start shooting? Were the guns received as Christmas gifts that just had to be tested on the first large, white target spotted?
Initial reports are that #4-11 was shot with a high powered rifle. Her remains were sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s forensic’s lab in Oregon for confirmation as part of the investigation
We at Operation Migration respect hunting and responsible hunters. We believe that vandals are behind most Whooping Crane shootings – vandals that must be brought to justice. If you have any information that might help authorities apprehend the shooter of #4-11, please call 317-346-7017.