Indiana Whooping Crane Shootings

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Catherine Wohlfeil January 11, 2017 10:37 pm

    I agree with Elsie. It’s time to bring it to the public using local celebrities / athletes / politicians. Create a “named” crane (as Micky Mouse became known so can she) to speak out in defense of responsible environmental protection and bringing back honor and respect for nature. Twitter, Facebook, social media of any kind. You sound angry and should be; use that anger to Just Say No to such senseless loss. .You don’t have to be President to make yourself heard.

  2. RadAudit1 January 11, 2017 3:12 pm

    I find it difficult to believe a hunter is a responsible for this shooting. No hunter worth his salt could possibly confuse a whooping crane with any bird he was allowed to hunt.

    • Heather Ray January 11, 2017 4:20 pm

      I tend to agree – unfortunately, it’s someone with access to a high-powered rifle though. Scary, huh?

  3. Dorothy N January 11, 2017 2:19 pm

    What about a public relations/information push in southern Indiana about the whooping cranes and the efforts taken to restore the population. I know it costs money, but the loss of each crane, especially successfully breeding whoopers, represents a VERY LARGE investment. The media is surely a place to start.

  4. Glenda May January 11, 2017 10:34 am

    Our hearts have skipped a collective beat… I pray for peace in hearts… Bless your hearts today and every day…

  5. Matt January 11, 2017 8:54 am

    Five Whooping Cranes in the reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) have been victims of shootings in Indiana. THAT is just in ONE state. Not everyone is going to follow the rules plain and simple. Granted there are some hunters that do follow the law BUT there are some that don’t. I have seen it here in Florida. They were shooting more than their bag limit and guess what they were turned in. They were also caught shooting at animals that were not in season. Then you have folks out there that just shoot at anything that moves. MORE folks need to report this activity.

  6. Elsie Sealander January 11, 2017 8:40 am

    The people watching this website are well aware of all the time and work put in to raising the Whooping Crane. Sadlly, the people who commit these crimes mostly likely don’t look at the OM website. Local media needs to get involved, hitting the front pages of the newspapers and showing on local TV news. Hopefully this is or will happen in Indiana. How about putting this terrible news on Facebook, etc.

  7. Rick Greene January 11, 2017 8:00 am

    Just curious, are sandhiils being shot as well and just being covered/reported?

    • Heather Ray January 11, 2017 8:12 am

      Currently 15 States allow a Sandhill crane hunt. The closest to Indiana is Kentucky. I’m sure there are some Sandhill shootings outside of the allowed hunting times, but they’re not as reported as their numbers are much greater than endangered Whooping cranes.

  8. Benne Ferrell January 11, 2017 6:24 am

    These shootings are heartbreaking, and I believe malicious rather than accidental. Stronger penalties and higher fines should enforced. The legal system needs to catch up to the seriousness of these crimes. My condolences to all who work so hard and invest so much of themselves to save these magnificent birds.