Endangered cranes shot
Two whooping cranes were hit with birdshot in La. One died.
They were the only birds that had formed a mating bond last year, though they were too young to produce eggs, said Robert Love of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"They were some of our older birds and our best chance for having a more successful nest this year," said Love. "It's just sickening."
Whooping cranes are among the world's largest and rarest birds, with only about 600 alive today - all descended from 15 that lived in coastal Texas in the 1940s. They are protected under state and federal laws.
In all, 50 cranes have been banded, tagged with radio transmitters, and released in an attempt to create a flock like those that once lived in southwest Louisiana. Thirty-two are still alive.
Out of the first 10 released, the male is the only one to survive.
It is expected to live, but wildlife agents don't know whether it will be able to fly, Einck said. "One of its wings was pretty badly damaged."
Einck said the birds were hit with birdshot, apparently Thursday. They were found Friday near Roanoke in Jefferson Davis Parish.
Louisiana's goose season is still open, and a landowner had reported earlier in the week that the cranes were "hanging about" with a large flock of snow geese, Love said. But, he said, the shooting couldn't have been a mistake: "There's no mistaking a snow goose for a whooping crane."
An adult whooping crane stands nearly 5 feet tall from red cap to gray-black feet and has a long, slender bill and a wingspan of more than seven feet. Snow geese have short bills, are all white, and are much shorter and lower to the ground.
Wildlife and fisheries officials offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to whoever shot the birds.